Saturday, 21 April 2018

Bring Me Sunshine (18/04/18)

The latest update from Stefan Cross on the ongoing settlement talks with Glasgow City Council is the most positive there's been since these meetings began, but I would echo Stefan's note of cautious optimism.

Because after all this time there's still no sign that council officials or the council's political leaders are really committed to addressing the big issues which are:
  1. Compensating claimants properly for 11 years (and counting) of the 'unfit for purpose' WPBR
  2. Replacing the WPBR with new pay arrangements which are open, transparent and command the support of the council's largely female workforce
In previous settlement talks with North Lanarkshire Council and South Lanarkshire Council, for example, negotiations were tough and required compromise, but there was never any doubt that a settlement agreement was possible and desirable on both sides.

In Glasgow things have been very different, so far at least.

Because senior officials are reluctant to accept the scale of the problem and the need to replace the WPBR - while Glasgow's councillors have been adopting a 'hands-off' approach which means the settlement process lacks a real sense of purpose and direction.

So in the next 5 weeks, in the run-up to 22 May, we need to re-double our efforts at getting the claimants' message across and not just to Glasgow's councillors, but to the City's MSPs and MPs as well.

Elected councillors have a crucial and key role to play, although they are part of a wider political network which is where Glasgow's MSPs and MPs come in, as I can't see the City Council financing a comprehensive settlement agreement without help from the Scottish Government, in relation to additional borrowing powers for example.

If the political will is there, I have no doubt an agreement can be reached, in principle, by the summer.

The task ahead is to persuade Glasgow's politicians that the fight for equal pay in Scotland's largest council must move much higher up their political agenda.



Meeting 10 with the council was a much more positive affair than the last few meetings. It seems that the first signs of spring have managed to thaw the chilly attitude of the officers, at least a little. For once we didn’t spend 2 hours on the minutes. 

The council agreed that there were only 2 items. Our proposal to resolve matters and their threatened imposition of an interim payment.

We were pleased the council seemed to take things seriously. They brought along 2 extra folk from finance to hear our presentation and ask questions. More importantly there was no immediate hostile reaction and the council agreed to respond by 14th May in a considered and professional way. We can only hope this approach continues and we can finally engage in meaningful discussions.

On the imposition of a dodgy interim payment there was again a marked change of tack and mood. They told us that they had met with the political group and they had been instructed to make a formal offer which they understood we were likely to reject and then the politicians would reconsider.

However it was clear that the proposal which they had threatened was going to be revised. This will be their third attempt at this. But this time they have promised to send us not only a proposal but actual numbers and calculations. They promised this twice before but didn’t deliver. They also agreed that we would be given time to consider the proposal and respond. Again this is a positive development as it means we can engage with them.

Our priority remains to try and deal with the total claim not get diverted and waste time and resources on a puny and potentially divisive “interim payment”.

This is just my impression but I got the feeling the officers didn’t get what they wanted from the politicians and this offer and rejection manoeuvring is a bit of face saving for the officers. My take is that your continued lobbying of the leadership is critical and working. Not at the pace or extent that we want but moving in the right direction and preventing officers from riding roughshod over the process. We need to keep it up.

Please note the timings involved here. We are not getting their interim payment suggestions until 1st May. The next meeting with the council after that is not until 22nd May. That will be the next important meeting. So we will not have a lot to report for the next 5 weeks. So patience, please.

In the meantime both GMB and UNISON will be conducting consultative ballots to gauge the appetite for strikes. It’s really important as many people as possible take part. Just a word of caution. There are 11000 claimants. That’s only 1/4 of people who could claim. There are only 1600 in the equal pay facebook group and they’re not all claimants, so only 1/10th ish of claimants are in the group. Strike action needs as many on board as possible not just the folk with strong views on this group. To get a good response to the ballots means you’ll need to bring your friends and colleagues on board.

Anyway let’s hope the spring thaw leads to a summer settlement.

Stefan Cross