Last October, the lack of progress in settling a long-running dispute at Glasgow City Council led to the biggest equal-pay strike in British history.
On Monday 21 January, over 250 women members of the GMB employed by Glasgow City Council attended a meeting to hear an update on the campaign.
The previous week the media had reported that agreement had been reached with the now SNP-run Council in a dispute stretching back to 2006, when the then Labourcontrolled council introduced a new pay scheme to address gender-based pay inequalities.
Refusing to adopt the pay scheme used by all other Scottish local authorities, the Council brought in private consultants to create a scheme which did the opposite: it led to women workers being paid up to £3 an hour less than male workers doing work of equal value.
Subsequent Labour-controlled administrations perpetuated the injustice, spending £3 million on legal action to try to defeat the women.
Now the dispute has been resolved — in principle. As Action4Equality lawyer Stefan Cross, who
represents 8,000 of the current 14,000 equal pay claimants, put it at last Monday’s meeting: “No one has signed on the dotted line yet”.
Neither side had got everything that it wanted, he said. Both sides had made concessions. But the deal — still to be finalised and then approved by a full Council meeting — would be a fair deal and was in line with the women members’ priority, i.e. getting paid what they are owed as soon as possible.
There will also be a further payout in 2021. Negotiations have begun about a new pay scheme as a replacement for the current one. It will be 2021 before a new scheme has been finalised. In the meantime, the existing one, with its in-built discrimination, will continue to operate.
Although a final resolution of the equal pay claim is now in sight, other issues remain outstanding.
The City Council Labour Group leadership needs to be called to account. That is to say: They must resign, at least from their positions, if not as councillors as well. When in power they not only failed to meet the women’s demands but also did everything possible to defeat them.
Group leader McAveety, deputy leader Graham and other long-standing councillors who should have been put out to grass years ago, are a dead weight on the Labour Party in Glasgow.
They perpetuated discrimination. The SNP put an end to it. That’s how tens of thousands of voters in Glasgow see things – and their perception is 100% correct.
When women workers staged last October’s historic strike, the Labour Group failed to back it. While
women workers made history, Glasgow Labour councillors picked their noses and looked the other way.
There are also the questions of the “rehabilitation” of Stefan Cross and the failure of union officials to
oppose the discriminatory pay deal.
For years Cross has been denounced by Unison in particular as an ambulance chaser, latching on to equal
pay claims which unions claimed to have resolved by cutting a deal with the local authority employers —
albeit at the expense of women workers.
At last Monday’s meeting Cross made repeated allusions to this, although not everybody in the audience
would have picked them up:
“This is the first time in seventeen years I’ve been allowed into a meeting of trade unionists... They (the
GMB) put your interests ahead of what happened in the past. … There are ambulance chasers out there
trying to latch on to your claims — but that’s what people used to call me!”
The Action4Equality blog has also carried some uncharitable comments about Unison officials, both
national and Scottish:
“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
“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. I’ve known Mike for years and the last time I saw him in Glasgow in the flesh, he was terribly
rude which I put down to my work with Action4Equality, as this got right up some people’s noses.”
Just as Labour councillors must be called to account for creating and perpetuating a discriminatory pay
scheme, so too must those union officials who colluded in it.
Finally, there is the question of how Glasgow City Council will find the £500 million or more needed to
pay the wages owed to its women employees.
McAveety’s administration was so convinced that it would be able to defeat the women workers that it
left only £1 million in the Council’s contingency fund when it was voted out of office. The SNP has
increased this to £35 million, but this is still only a drop in the ocean.
The SNP appears to be planning on extending the Council’s current debt facilities (meaning that an even
larger amount of council income will be handed over to banks as interest payments) and mortgaging
Council properties (ditto).
It has not given a commitment to maintaining services, not even specifically frontline services: According
to SNP Group leader Susan Aitken, the SNP will “seek to avoid cuts to frontline services as much as we
possibly can” but people will see “differences”.
Voters in Glasgow should not pick up the tab for the failures and political bankruptcy of former Labour administrations. The women workers should get every penny they are owed – but not financed by cuts in services and handing over even more money to banks.