Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Glasgow, Politics and Equal Pay

The SNP's John Mason is my local MSP and if you ask me, John has always been a bit 'wobbly' when it comes standing up for Glasgow's equal pay claimants.

Yet John was a Glasgow councillor for 10 years between 1998 and 2008, according to this report in The Times, so he was there at the crucial period when the WPBR was introduced in January 2007.

Constituents must reveal their loyalties when contacting MSP

By Kieran Andrews - The Times

John Mason has said he will speak up for his constituents on “personal”, but not constitutional, matters

An SNP MSP who said he would refuse to speak up for constituents who oppose Scottish independence is asking voters for their political beliefs when they contact his website.

Four questions are put to anyone submitting an online contact form to John Mason, three are about which political parties they most closely identify with and one asks if they believe that Scotland should be an independent country.

In drop down menus for the political party preferences people can select “other” or “undecided” and numerous mainstream and minority parties. There is no option for no answer and three options for the independence question: yes, no and undecided.

Senior SNP sources were furious about Mr Mason’s questionnaire, which follows a week of controversy for the MSP. On Tuesday, Mr Mason, 62, said that he would not support anyone in his constituency who disagreed with him on the constitution but would back them on “personal issues”.

He tweeted: “I am happy to represent every constituent on issues like housing and to discuss all sorts of issues with constituents.

“However, I will not be speaking up for constituents who want lower taxes, Orange marches, keeping Scotland in the UK, etc.”

Mr Mason is the Nationalist member for Glasgow Shettleston. Before entering Holyrood he was the SNP MP for Glasgow East from 2008 until he lost the seat in 2010. He was also a Glasgow city councillor from 1998 to 2008.

Annie Wells, the Scottish Conservative MSP for Glasgow, has written to Nicola Sturgeon and is calling for the first minister to consider expelling Mr Mason from the SNP. Ms Wells said that he was devaluing Holyrood.

“I would really hope that John Mason is not screening constituents in order to avoid anyone who supports Scotland’s place in the UK,” Ms Wells said.

“The combination of his blanket statement that he won’t represent unionists and this practice is disturbing.”

In her letter to the first minister, Ms Wells added: “As MSPs, we have a moral duty to assist everyone, regardless of their political or religious beliefs.”

Mr Mason has argued that claims he refused to represent unionists were misleading. He added that he was elected “on a particular mandate” and that there were unionist MSPs who he would “not expect . . . to speak out for Scottish independence, even if their constituents want them to”.

Last year Mr Mason was rebuked by his party after arguing that Holyrood should “protect unborn babies” by restricting abortion rights.

He made his most recent comments in an online row about how often religious marches should take place and admitted that it was difficult to have “nuanced debate” on social media. He said that there must be a space in public discourse for opinions “to be voiced with a level of respect”.

A spokeswoman for the SNP said: “Of course John Mason listens to and represents all of his constituents on a host of issues — regardless of their political views — as all MSPs should.”

Mr Mason was asked to comment.

Glasgow - Why John Mason Is Wrong On Equal Pay (08/05/18)

I promised to say more about John Mason's recent email and why the SNP MSP for Glasgow Shettleston is way off the mark with his comments about the fight for equal pay in Glasgow City Council.

The first point to make is that the reference to Sweden is really baffling - because the fight for equal pay in Glasgow is not about the 'gender pay gap' across a big organisation or society (Sweden) as a whole.

Instead the fight in Glasgow is over the principle of 'equal pay for work of equal value' and - just like other Scottish councils - it's about an employer paying Home Carers thousands of pounds a year less than unskilled Road Workers, Gardeners or Gravediggers.

In Glasgow's case, the pay of male and female dominated jobs has been achieved via a discredited system known as the WPBR (Workforce Pay and Benefits Review) which is based on bizarre 'rules' and 'practices' that operate to the disadvantage of the council's female dominated jobs. 

Now John should know this because he was a councillor in Glasgow at the time, but for some reason he appears to have forgotten what the WPBR was all about, or the fact that it has since been condemned by Scotland's highest civil court, the Court of Session, as 'unfit for purpose'.

The next point is that John seems to think that when it comes to their employment rights, equal pay claimants can be 'just a little bit pregnant' - that they should accept less than they deserve because of an unspecified threat from redundancies and costs in council services?

In which case, I'd like to know what price the council's senior officials and/or its political leaders have paid for making such a terrible mess of delivering equal pay over the past 12 years. 

The third point is that an apology would indeed be in order, not least because the architect of Glasgow's ALEOs including Cordia was none other than the City Council's current chief executive, Annemarie O'Donnell.

The creation of Cordia allowed thousands of Cordia staff to be treated as second class members of the Glasgow 'Council Family' for years, yet senior council officials are being allowed to trumpet Cordia as a great policy success, which strikes me as  rather odd.

So Glasgow's pay arrangements are riddled with discrimination and this will continue until the WPBR is replaced by a new job evaluation scheme and new pay arrangements which are open, transparent and command the support of the Council's largely female workforce.


Glasgow - Equal Pay Update (06/05/18)

A kind reader has shared an email she received from John Mason MSP on the fight for equal pay in Glasgow City Council.

Now John has 'form' in this area and although he should know better he has yet again suggested that the claimants should pay for their own employment rights to be upheld - through redundancies and cuts in council services.

Back in January, John said more or less the same thing and it's worrying that an SNP MSP (and former Glasgow councillor) should hole these opinions, especially when the City Council's SNP leader, Susan Aitken, has repeatedly stated that claimants should be properly compensated and 'get what they're due'.

So my advice is that equal pay claimants in John Mason's constituency would let John know what they think of his comments - I imagine John would not accept being paid at less than the 'rate for the job' he does and an MSP, nor would he accept his office staff being treated as second class citizens.

I'll have more to say later today, but in the meantime here are a few posts from the blog site archive that should give people food for thought.

Thanks for your email.

I certainly do support a settlement of this dispute as soon as possible. I am not familiar with all the details of past schemes nor of what is on the table for negotiation now. However, I certainly do agree that women have been poorly treated in the past by many employers including Glasgow City Council. We need to treat everyone equally going forward. However, the Gender Pay Gap remains a problem and it is proving difficult to reduce. Even in Sweden which is widely seen as being a fairer society that ours, women on average continue to be paid considerably less than men.

I am not sure whether an apology can be issued or not. Apologies really have to be made by the people who made the actual mistakes and I am not sure how worthwhile it is for councillors or officials holding posts today to apologise for different people who held the posts in the past. I completely agree there should be openness and transparency in pay rates and other conditions going forward, including for overtime and holiday pay.

Whatever happens now, there must be negotiations to reach a settlement going forward. I am very pleased that the new SNP administration is refusing to go to court to settle this. However, I suspect no one will get exactly what they want. Any settlement has to be affordable for the City. There would seem to be little point in paying out large compensation payments, if the current staff had to have pay cuts or redundancies in order to pay for it. So I hope all sides will be prepared to genuinely negotiate and reach a compromise which will be good for all involved.

I hope this helps explain my thinking on this topic.

Yours sincerely

John Mason


Glasgow - Insulting and Ridiculous (18/12/17)

I circulated a copy of yesterday's post about John Mason's comments on the fight for equal pay with Glasgow City Council - to all Glasgow MSPs, MPs and local councillors along with the following Twitter message: 

"John Mason's suggestion that equal pay claimants in Glasgow should 'pay' for their own rights to be upheld is insulting, ridiculous and a complete non-starter"

I don't think I need to add anything further at this stage, but watch this space for more news because there's a lot going on at the moment. 


Glasgow - Breaking News (17/12/17)

Image result for breaking news + images

I said in a post the other day that Glasgow's MSPs and MPs have been strangely quiet   during the long fight for equal pay with Glasgow City Council.

A kind reader has just shared this email from John Mason MSP which, if you ask me, is ill-judged, patronising and insulting because of the strange way John qualifies his 'support' for equal pay.

John's suggestion is that the Glasgow claimants who have been cheated and robbed of their rights to equal pay for years should come up with a solution themselves and consider accepting less than they are entitled to given the potential impact on jobs and services. 

Thanks for your email.

Yes, I do agree with you that this dispute should be settled as soon as possible.

The problem is how much money it will cost and where that money will come from. Figures up to £500 million have been mentioned and Glasgow does not have that money. Labour should have made cuts to pay for the equal pay.

Do you think the SNP should cut jobs and services in order to pay the equal pay claim? Or should the workers who are entitled to the money take less so their colleagues can keep their jobs?

Happy to hear any ideas you have about where the money should come from.


John Mason

(MSP for Glasgow Shettleston)

Now I didn't hear Nicola Sturgeon qualify her support back in October when she said at an SNP conference in Glasgow in October 2017:

"The injustice suffered by low paid women in this city will be put right.

"Equal pay for equal work, denied for too long, will be delivered by the SNP."

Nor have I heard SNP MPs at Westminster say that the pension rights of the 'WASPI' women should be restored so long as they come up with proposals for making cuts in other areas of public spending!

I must check on this point with Ian Blackford, the SNP leader in the House of Commons, and Mhairi Black, the SNP MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire, who has been very vocal in support of the WASPI campaign, but I'll eat my hat is that is the stance being taken by the SNP in Westminster.

And while I agree with John that previous Labour-led administrations in Glasgow have a lot to answer for, if I remember correctly, John was a Glasgow councillor at the time the City Council approved its 'unfit for purpose' WPBR pay arrangements back in 2006/07.

So John trying to 'wash his hands' of the whole affair simply won't do although I'd be happy to sit down and discuss how the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government might help Glasgow City Council find a way out of the huge mess it finds itself in today.

But what do the claimants in Glasgow think of John's email?

Let me know and I'll see if we can find a way of bringing Glasgow's MSPs and MPs together for a constructive discussion with some of the claimants in the New Year.


Glasgow's 'Quiet Bunch' (15/12/17)

Glasgow's MSPs and MPs are proving to be more like 'The Quiet Bunch' than 'The Wild Bunch' when it comes to the fight for equal pay with Scotland's largest local council.

Now I've been keeping all Glasgow politicians - local councillors, MSPs and MPs - up to speed with what's been happening in recent weeks and months, yet there seems to be a strange reluctance to get directly involved.

I certainly expected the politicians to show more interest in what's happening in their own back yard and to speak up on important issues such as the prospect of the City Council trying to overturn a unanimous judgment from Scotland's highest civil court, the Court of Session.

Maybe they're all too busy doing their Christmas shopping, but whatever the reason I'm sure this issue is going to return with a real vengeance in the New Year.


Glasgow MSPs and MPs (08//11/17)

I sent a copy of yesterday's post on 'The Fight for Equal Pay' to all Glasgow MSPs and MPs along with the following Twitter message:

"Equal pay claimants demand respect from Glasgow City Council after years of being treated as second-class citizens"

So far at least, I've heard nothing back - not a 'Like', 'Retweet', message of support or request for further information.

Which strikes me as a bit odd because Glasgow's MSPs and MPs have strong views on just about every issue under the sun, if their Twitter feeds are anything to go by.

And you would think that Glasgow's politicians would be taking a very keen interest in such a long running struggle which is taking place right under their noses.

In any event, it's important that equal pay claimants keep demanding support from their local MSPs and MPs because we're not out of the woods yet - not by a long chalk.

MSPs and MPs have a big role to play in the weeks ahead as the City Council decides whether to pursue an appeal to the UK Supreme Court and over the outstanding issue of coming clean over its WPBR pay arrangements.

Surely it's not too much to ask Glasgow's politicians to get behind their local constituents on the question of openness, transparency and equal pay?


Are You Up For The Fight, Glasgow? (18/02/18)

I didn't doubt the answer for a minute, but here are just some of the responses to my question about the future of the City Council's WPBR pay monster: 

"Are your Up for the Fight, Glasgow?"

Yes. already sent emails to my local MSP and MP


Yip. A big apology and years of compensation. Even if the apology would be false. Bunch of no users.




Yes, absolutely.




Yes, count me in




Yes, me and the rest of my army!




Seems like the makings of an angry mob to me -  and it will certainly do for starters.

As ever, many hands Make Light Work - so the more people who get involved the better it will be for all concerned!

Let's go, Glasgow!