Thursday, 23 January 2020

Glasgow - One Year On!

A year ago this week the fight for equal pay in Glasgow took a giant step forward with the announcement that a negotiated settlement had been reached, in principle, with Glasgow City Council over its outstanding equal pay claims. 

But then, as now, there was still lots more work to be done and the fight in Glasgow continues to this day.


Politics of Equal Pay (23/01/19)

Here's a really good article by Catriona Stewart in the Evening Times which reflects on various aspects of the long fight for equal pay in Glasgow City Council.

Now what I like about the piece is that it's pretty even-handed with both its praise and criticism since it's true to say that lots of people (and organisations) have been blowing their own trumpet since a deal was announced.

I'll have more to say about this 'trumpet blowing' in a separate post because while it is important for everyone to have their say - they ought not to be allowed to rewrite history.

One thing that is clear, for the moment at least, is that Glasgow is being left to clear up this business all on its own - there's no mention of extra help or funds from the Scottish Government even though its ministers clearly are listening to the 'special cases' being made on behalf of other groups.

Catriona Stewart: The equal pay fight is far from over

By Catriona Stewart @LadyCatHT - Evening Times
Equal pay strike in Glasgow (Kirsty Anderson) with
 the celebrations came the recriminations.

Settling the equal pay dispute in Glasgow has been a battle rumbling on for more than a decade and finally, finally, on Thursday last week an agreement was reached.

The news was broken first by the unions with Glasgow City Council and Action 4 Equality Scotland issuing a joint statement confirming the deal shortly after.

While the women who are due to receive their long awaited payments must have been over the moon - the average pay out is expected to be £35,000 while some will receive upwards of £100,000 - on social media it quickly became about politics.

Who should be given the credit and who should shoulder the blame?

The issue has been a political football. The equal pay scandal is squarely on the shoulders of the Labour administration and the unions that allowed their women members to be sidelined and underpaid.

Would Labour have resolved the issue had Frank McAveety not lost control of Glasgow City Council in 2017? We'll never know.

The unions are in a better place as they have had the chance to turn themselves around in support of the women. GMB Scotland, in particular, has been frank about the organisations failure in looking after the interests of women members.

New union officials Rhea Wolfson and Hazel Nolan would seem to have won the trust and respect of their women members while UNISON has a healthy and active membership of campaigners who have been impressively vocal on the issue.

Action 4 Equality Scotland has been a constant throughout the equal pay dispute yet lawyers Mark Irvine and Stefan Cross QC have had criticism for making money from the lengthy struggle.

That's an odd argument. Lawyers don't work for free, they, like the women involved in the equal pay battle, expect to be fairly recompensed for their work.

Along with recriminations, there is another element where social media has played a part.

Unlike in the early years of the equal pay dispute, there is now an active community of equal pay women on Facebook who have shared vital information, encouraged other women to get involved and lit the touch paper that led to last year's march and rally to George Square.

It has been fascinating to see how the use of social media - so derided in other contexts - has had an impact on Glasgow's equal pay dispute.

So, praise is due to the women for continuing to fight during what must have been extremely discouraging times. Praise to the unions and to Action 4 Equality Scotland.

And praise to Susan Aitken and the SNP administration who kept a pledge to sort out the mess left behind by Labour.

Yet quibbling over who has done the most for settling equal pay seems a pointless side issue when there is so much left to be done.

A full council now must sign off the agreement when the SNP has minority control of the council and the women must approve their individual settlements.

It will take another two years to rectify the unfair pay structure that led to the current mess the city is in.

More compensation will need to be paid at the end of those two years to women who have been shortchanged throughout that period.

Some 3000 different jobs will need to be assessed and any pay changes signed off by the unions and the council.

Mr Cross faced ridicule when he suggested the equal pay claims would cost the city £500 million but now here the city is with a £500 million bill.

The pay of thousands of women will have to be brought to an equal status of the pay packets of hundreds of men.

Sorting that out will also be a hugely costly business.

When the budget is announced next month, hard choices will have been made to help to pay for the bills equal pay has caused.

And the ramifications will be felt for years to come.

No one likes to feel the pinch and feel the pinch we will so the campaign must continue to ensure the city - its residents and its elected members - remember why equality is so important and must be delivered.

Last week was a major victory but the fight still continues.

Hypocrisy Over Public Sector Pay (1)

The Scottish Government is guilty of the most appalling hypocrisy over public sector pay. 

Where is the fairness and social justice in an 'enhanced' pay rise for teachers when other groups of  council workers have faced exactly the same pay restraint policies in recent years? 

If Scotland's teachers deserve to be made a special case, so do the thousands of low paid workers in Glasgow City Council who have been fighting for their rights to equal pay for the past 12 years.

Read the full story via the link below to Paul Huctheon's piece in The Sunday Herald.

Swinney plan would give teachers 'enhanced' pay rise of 12%

By Paul Hutcheon - Sunday Herald

John Swinney

EDUCATION Secretary John Swinney has intervened in the row over teachers’ pay by proposing a 12% multi-year rise, in a bid to avert a classroom strike.

The largest teaching union yesterday gave its approval to open a statutory ballot over the pay dispute, with notice of the action being issued to local authority employers.

However, Swinney yesterday backed a revision to the rejected offer which he hopes will be accepted this month and end the standoff.

His move is the latest development in the long-running saga over the failure to reach a deal on teachers’ pay this year. Salaries are determined by a tripartite body including the Government, council representatives and unions.

The current offer, tabled the local authorities, would give teachers earning up to £80,000 a 3% rise in three consecutive years.

A second strand includes an overhaul of the pay scale which, if accepted, could add another 2% to the salaries of some teachers this year.

However, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), which represents teachers, rejected the offer and is moving towards a strike ballot.

Swinney has now suggested a change to the pay scale element that would result in a 3% uplift from this month. The package is now believed to be worth 12% over fifteen months.

As an offer can only be made by council umbrella group COSLA, it is understood Swinney’s proposal will be discussed at the next tripartite meeting.

Swinney said yesterday: “I made this proposal to the EIS on Thursday. It is an enhanced offer and I will ask COSLA to agree this and to formally offer it to unions after 25 January. I believe this must be put to teachers for their consideration.

“I welcome the agreement by EIS to allow further time to reach an agreement. Industrial action is in no one’s interests not least our children and young people. That has been my focus and will continue to be until this resolved.

“I welcome the move by EIS to allow further time to reach an agreement. Industrial action is in no one’s interests not least our children and young people. That has been my focus and will continue to be until this is resolved.”

Swinney’s suggestion came as a specially convened meeting of the EIS Council gave the green light to strike action.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: "EIS Council has today approved the opening of a statutory strike ballot over pay.

"We have been negotiating for a year, on a pay claim that was due to be settled last April. Teachers' patience is now exhausted.

"Our preference has always been to agree a fair deal through negotiation, but we have been very clear, also, that we are prepared to take strike action should this be necessary to achieve an acceptable settlement.

"Ballot papers will be issued later this month. Clearly, once the actual ballot is under way, negotiations are suspended but prior to that we remain prepared to consider any improved pay offer. No offer has been forthcoming from our local authority employers, however.”

Scottish Greens MSP Ross Greer said: "Teachers are overworked, under-resourced and have suffered a 20% real terms pay cut. They will continue to have Green support in their campaign for fair pay."

A COSLA spokesperson said: “We remain in talks. It is in nobody’s interest to see industrial action.”