Unison's Mike Kirby has burst into fairy lights all of a sudden after a long period of silence over the fight for equal pay in Glasgow City Council.
Perhaps this is not so surprising because as the old saying goes - 'success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan'.
Now I've known Mike for years and the last time I saw him in Glasgow in the flesh, so to speak, he was terribly rude which I put down to my work with Action 4 Equality Scotland, as this got right up some people's noses.
All these years later the tables have turned and no one has a bad word to say about Stefan Cross or A4ES, albeit there are some who would continue to ignore our contribution and might even prefer to 'airbrush' us out of history altogether, if they could.
Which won't happen, of course, because too much of the historic fight for equal pay in Glasgow is already 'on the record' and if Mike doesn't pipe down, I might just share some of my old posts from the blog site archive.
The important thing for me is that the Glasgow claimants know who was on their side from the outset - and who stuck with them through thick and thin.
Equal pay agreement is just the beginning of the end for Glasgow
Thousands of women march through Glasgow to protest about their unequal pay
WHEN 2018 ended and Glasgow City Council had not settled its long-running equal-pay dispute as promised, it looked like the matter could be heading back to the employment tribunal to be resolved on a case-by-case basis.
Though both the council and the lawyers and trade unions representing the 14,000 affected women conceded that “valuable progress” had been made since the claimants staged a two-day strike in October, there were simply too many sticking points to overcome before a final settlement could be agreed.
Given that the case had already rumbled on for over a decade and that those affected will continue to receive unfair salaries even when the settlement goes through, that is hardly surprising.
Equal pay lawyer: ‘We’re drawing a line under history, but there’s still a problem’
But, with all sides keen to get the deal away, a breakthrough came two weeks ago when, as key negotiator Stefan Cross put it, everyone agreed to “draw a line under the past and get to the future when we get to the future”.
As a result, the sides were able to stop quibbling about what might happen when the council’s discredited pay scheme is replaced in the next two years and focus instead on ensuring the women are paid all the wages they should rightfully have received up to this point.
And so - finally - a £500 million package that will translate into average individual pay-outs of £35,000 was agreed this week, allowing the SNP-led council to finally bring an end to a problem that the former Labour-run administration had not only created but perpetuated.
No wonder council leader Susan Aitken, who said after the agreement was reached that her “commitment to resolving this issue has never wavered and I have never needed to be convinced of the case for equality”, felt able to gloat.
“After a decade of obstruction and inaction, in a relatively short space of time we have now reached agreement which delivers the pay justice these women long have fought for,” she said.
The agreement is hardly an end in itself, though. Ms Aitken still has to get sign off from a full council her party only has minority control of while the women - who are represented variously by Mr Cross’s firm Action 4 Equality Scotland and trade unions the GMB, Unison and Unite - will need to agree their individual settlements.
Given the time and effort that has gone into reaching the agreement, those matters are considered to be formalities, although there could be a small number of cases where further negotiation is required.
The bigger issue from the council’s point of view will be raising the necessary finance to ensure it can meet its stated aim of settling all 14,000 claims by December this year.
It will be no small task. Though Ms Aitken made settling the dispute a priority when she took over from Labour’s Frank McAveety in 2017, the previous administration had been so convinced that it could defeat the women through the courts that it made practically no financial provision for a potential settlement.
With less than £1m in its contingency fund when Labour left office, the SNP-led council set aside £35m in the 2017/18 financial year, all of which will now be put towards the settlement.
It will also look to extend its existing debt facilities - which at the end of 2017/18 stood £200m lower than a year previously at £1.5 billion - and mortgage some of the non-operational buildings held on its behalf by arms-length organisation City Property.
While raising half a billion pounds should not cause too much of a problem for a council as asset-rich as Glasgow, it is understood that all those financing deals are yet to be done meaning time, more than anything, is going to be of the essence.
Then, of course, there will be the future to deal with.
The starting point for this entire process was the pay structure put in place in 2007 following an agreement between the Labour administration and the then male-dominated trade unions.
Although it was supposed to eradicate an unfair system that had previously seen male workers earn bonuses their female counterparts were not entitled to, in truth all that pay scheme did was lock those bonuses in, perpetuating the inequality in the process.
While the £500m settlement will compensate the women for that, the discredited pay system - and so the pay inequality - will remain in place for at least the next two years while work gets under way on devising a new scheme.
It is going to be a complicated process, not just because there is an obvious need to get it right this time, but because it is going to require the value of 3,000 different jobs to be assessed, compared and signed off by both the council and the unions.
When it is done, a further settlement will have to be negotiated to make amends for any pay inequalities during the period between this week’s £500m settlement being paid out and the new pay grades taking effect .
As Unison Scottish secretary Mike Kirby said when the settlement was agreed on Thursday: “While we have made great progress, we still have a lot of work to do.”
With the council facing bringing thousands of female workers’ pay packets into line with those of just a few hundred male staff one thing is for sure: it promises to continue to be a costly business.
Funny Old World (18/01/19)
Here's the statement released by Unison on the fight for equal pay in Glasgow.
Now everyone likes to pat themselves on the back on these occasions, but I'm surprised that Dave Prentis and Mike Kirby are doing the talking here because if you ask me, neither Dave or Mike have covered themselves in glory since this fight began back in 2005 - quite the opposite, in fact.
Nor do they mention the role played by Stefan Cross and Action 4 Equality Scotland which is a shame because we have worked really well with the local Unison representatives, in particular Jennifer McCarey and Brian Smith.
But who would have thought that having left as Unison's Head of Local Government in Scotland back in 1999 - our paths would cross again over equal pay and events in Glasgow in 2019.
It's a funny old world, as they say!
Equal Pay Deal in Glasgow
17 January, 2019
UNISON is proud to say that we have reached an agreement in principle to a package of payments to resolve historical claims for unequal pay with Glasgow City Council.
This agreement finalises the principals and structure of any payout to thousands of women across Glasgow. It is part of an ongoing negotiation. It will still be many months until individual cases are settled.
UNISON, with sister trade unions, led around 8000 mostly women in an equal pay strike last year after they said they were fed-up waiting and were not satisfied with progress of negotiations. Talks have been constructive since the strike.
UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis said: “Women working for Glasgow City Council are a step closer to equal pay. Some have been owed substantial amounts for more than a decade. Having gone to court and been out on strike, it looks like the end is now in sight.”
“Although there may be a few more months to wait before the women finally get their cheques, this is truly a day to celebrate.”
Mike Kirby, Scottish Secretary, said: “This is a proud day for UNISON Scotland. It has been a long march and we could not have done this without the persistence and solidarity of UNISON women claimants and all the support of UNISON members. Women have been on strike, campaigned, organised and taken legal action all to the highest courts. This has been trade unions at their best. One of those days that makes you proud to be in UNISON.
But, I also want to give a word of caution. While we have made great progress today, we still have a lot of work to do. This is just another stage in the process to get justice. Today’s agreement finalises the principals and structure of any payout to the thousands of women across Glasgow. But that means we still have work to do over the coming months to agree detail, approve individual payment plans and calculate settlement figures in thousands of cases. ”
There is still a way to go. A report is being prepared for the City Administration Committee to approve the calculations and payment plan in the coming weeks. We will continue to work with our sister unions and Glasgow City Council to approve arrangements so we can start to calculate individual settlement figures.
But the end is now in sight. This is great day to be in UNISON.