Monday, 30 April 2018

Glasgow - Equal Pay Update

Here's a report on the equal pay meeting held on Friday in the Dixon Halls.

Settlement negotiations
Progress in settlement negotiations with senior council officials has been painfully slow and after 10 full meetings there has still been no serious negotiation on how to compensate the claimants for the ongoing and sizeable pay gaps between the Council's traditional male and female jobs. 

The other major stumbling block is that senior officials are still trying to defend the Council's discredited pay arrangements even though their WPBR scheme has been condemned as 'unfit for purpose' by the highest civil court in Scotland, the Court of Session.

The Claimants Side has presented proposals to the Council which address the issue of financial compensation and these is due to be discussed at the next joint negotiating meeting takes place on 22 May 2018.

If the Council responds positively, serious negotiations can finally get underway but for this to happen council officials need to accept that pay practices such as the 37 hour 'rule' are discriminatory, unjustifiable - and need to go.

Is the Council serious about settlement?
It's difficult to say for sure because council officials are still trying to defend their record and past behaviour while the City's elected councillors stay 'above the fray'. I've been involved in the settlement process in many other Scottish councils, but I have to say the equal pay negotiations in Glasgow City Council lack a sense of urgency, purpose and direction.

The politicians may have willed the 'ends' when it comes to equal pay, in the sense that they all say they are in favour of a solution, but they have yet to will the means by facing up to the big issues. 

Nor have they been willing, so far at least, to hold senior officials to account even though many of these officials helped to get the Council into this mess in the first place.

For example, the current chief executive (Annemarie O'Donnell) was directly involved in setting up Glasgow's ALEOs including Cordia which has treated the Cordia workforce as 'second class' citizens for years. Cordia is now being dismantled, but instead of apologising for this mess and its impact on staff, officials are singing their own praises and presenting the ALEO debacle as a great policy success.     

The fight continues
So the fight for equal pay in Glasgow City Council continues and we need to re-double our efforts to get the claimants message across in the run-up to the crunch meeting on 22 May - over the next 3/4 weeks a variety of events are taking place to do just that.

TU ballots on strike action
Unison and GMB are both holding consultative ballots on future strike action in the event that equal pay settlement negotiations break down or become a complete farce. Unison's ballot gets underway on Monday 30 April and concludes on 30 May - the GMB is working to a similar timetable. Strike action is now a real possibility and if this does go ahead Glasgow will be the first council in Scotland to face  industrial action over equal pay.

Friday 4 May 2018
A Working Group has been established to consider the issue of Job Evaluation (JE) and the WPBR and this meets on Friday 4 May. The view of the Claimants Side is clear - the WPBR is 'unfit for purpose' and has to go and the Council should commit itself to a new JE scheme which is open, transparent and commands the support of the workforce. So Friday 4 should be a short meeting.

Sunday 6 May 2018
The Annual Glasgow May Day march and rally is taking place on Sunday 6 May and the organisers have agreed that the theme this year will be Equal Pay - 50 years on from the 1970 Equal Pay Act. The march assembles in George Square and ends up in the Royal Concert Hall with a rally and speakers.

Monday/Tuesday - 14/15 May 2018
The Council Side is due to respond to the Claimants' settlement proposals on Monday 14 May 2018 and the Claimants Side will meet the following day to consider what the Council has to say. At that point it will become clear whether the Council is serious about a negotiated settlement of the outstanding claims.

Thursday 17 May 2018 
A lobby of the next full Council meeting is taking place on Thursday 17 May 2018 and the is an ideal opportunity to lobby local councillors in person ahead of what is likely to be a very important meeting. Further details will follow via the blog site and elsewhere.  

Tuesday 22 May 2018 
The next joint meeting between the Claimants' and Council representatives is on Tuesday 22 May. By this time it should be clear what the Council's intentions are - is there the basis for a negotiation on the Claimants settlement proposals or is the Council trying to drag things out for ever and a day.

Freedom of Information
Senior officials in Glasgow are fighting a desperate rearguard action to prevent proper scrutiny of exactly what their role was during the introduction of the WPBR back in 2005/07. The Council's chief executive, for example, claims that officials acted in good faith over the WPBR and that their aim was to eliminate gender pay discrimination, but at the same time this claim looks decidedly daft given the introduction of a blatantly discriminatory 37 hour 'rule' under the WPBR.

Senior officials are also blocking access to Council records which would prove or disprove their claim one way or the other - so what are they so keen to hide?

Lobbying councillors, MSPs and MPs
One of the most effective ways of getting our message across in the next few weeks is to directly lobby Glasgow's councillors, MSPs and MPs. Now no one is expecting the politicians to take over the running of the Council because,"'Why have a dog and bark yourself?" 

But it is perfectly possible for elected councillors, MSPs and MPs to speak up and say where they stand on issues like the 37 hour 'rule', the case for replacing the WPBR, the 'second class' treatment of Cordia workers - and the need for openness and transparency surrounding the introduction of the WPBR.

So even if claimants have done so before, now is the time to be raising these issues with Glasgow's elected politicians using the information people have to hand via the blog site, the Equal Pay Facebook page and campaign materials from Unison and GMB.