Saturday, 20 January 2018

The Fight for Equal Pay in Glasgow

Now here's something you don't see every day - a wonderfully spirited, honest and frank opinion piece on the subject of equal pay.

Catriona Stewart doesn't exactly pull her punches in The Herald as she points out that many of Glasgow's equal pay claimants have two and even three jobs to make ends meet; others work lots of overtime to boost their income and to add insult to injury they are then paid less than traditional male council workers for doing their additional hours.

So Catriona hits the nail on the head when she says that Glasgow's women must not be blackmailed into accepting less than they are due because of the cost to the City Council.

No one wants to see cuts to council services although Labour's Frank McAveety and the SNP's John Mason were both quick to raise this prospect as a way of 'qualifying' their support for righting this great wrong.

'I'm all in favour of equal pay. but not if it costs too much', has been a common refrain down the years often from people who regard themselves as good trade unionists and socialists.

As Catriona Stewart says, the City Council's lowest paid women workers have been fleeced once and they are not about to let that happen again.

'Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me' as the old saying goes.

Catriona Stewart: Glasgow's equal pay women must not be asked for more sacrifices

By Catriona Stewart @LadyCatHT - The Herald

The banners are defiant. Equal Pay or We Walk Away.

Of course, these women can't and won't walk away - and that is really at the heart of the issue.

On Wednesday a Glasgow City Council committee voted to end more than a decade of litigation over equal pay for low-paid, predominantly female staff, and move to negotiating a settlement instead. The council was making a decision on whether or not to appeal a Court of Session ruling allowing thousands of women to make claims against the authority to the tune of, well, a sum no one can accurately name although it is thought to be as much as £500 million.

More than 10,000 employees and former employees claim a workforce pay and benefits review (WPBR) in 2006 discriminated against those working in roles such as caring, cleaning and catering: predominantly female jobs. It was a deliberate disguising of the pay reassessment to look like equality while protecting salaries of male workers through bonuses and benefits not available to their female counterparts.

The previous Labour administration has daundered up, down and around instead of paying these women what they are owed, adding, according to the new SNP leader Susan Aitken, £20m a year to the final bill this council will face.

Labour leader Frank McAveety, who had the audacity or the chutzpah, depending on your stance, to congratulate the women following Thursday's vote, raised concerns in the meeting about the negative impact on jobs and services if the council pays out. He's right: the city is in a hole.

The SNP administration is already waving the victory in Labour's face, expecting us to be awed and humbled that they have enforced equality legislation passed nearly 50 years ago.

Listening to the women talk following the vote, the women who carry our city, who keep it running, there was a distinct air of excitement and anticipation. The payouts are coming, they hope, the changes to terms and conditions that will make their wages fair are on their way too.

No wonder there's excitement: some of these women are working two, even three, jobs to make ends meet.

There is an upbeat Erin Brockovich feel to the whole thing. Despite the excitement, the situation is far from over. What happens now is the lengthy and difficult process of negotiating how much workers are to get. To be clear, this is not extra cash. This is money that should have already been in the pockets of these women.

But if the women are paid in full it will severely impact council services. The losers will be the citizens of Glasgow - though we can hardly feel sorry for ourselves, having unfairly benefitted for years from the labour of underpaid women.

There may be cuts and redundancies to foot the bill. When 4000 women workers at Birmingham City Council won their equal pay claim in 2010, the city council skittered about making a settlement for a few years and then complained in 2014 it might have to sell off the NEC to cover the costs.

No one wants to see Glasgow City Council pawning its jewellery. But guilt must not be allowed to be a factor in the negotiations. It is not the responsibility of these women to take a hit and accept less than a full settlement in the interests of supporting the city.

It is so often the women who are asked to make sacrifices for the sake of the smooth running of families and of society. It is the women who pause their careers to take on childcare. It is the women who pause their lives to take on caring roles when a family member is ill or elderly.

What they will be asked to do now is to sacrifice money they are owed for the sake of the city. To be reasonable. Having been fleeced once while carrying the city on their backs, they will be asked to accept a second fleecing to ensure the services they already provide are safe.

Of course there is a balance to be struck. For many it will more important to have some money in their pockets now rather than a full payout years down the line. For others it will be the principle of the thing. For none must it be about making sacrifices.

They have made sacrifices. It is now up to the city to reward them fairly.

Labour Has a Real Cheek!

I didn't catch the Scottish Labour Party broadcast the other night in which Richard Leonard spoke about his enthusiastic support for equal pay.

But a reader drew the broadcast to my attention and we had the following email exchange.

Hi Mark

Have you seen Richard Leonard’s Labour Party Broadcast tonight - it’s as though Labour are claiming credit - they have always fought for Equal Pay - I’m gobsmacked!


Hi L

I'm afraid to say the Scottish Labour Party is totally without shame!




My Brass neck of 2017 Award did of course go to the Scottish Labour Party for an unbelievably shameless speech by a Scottish delegate to the UK Labour conference in Brighton.

So it comes as no surprise that Richard Leonard is up to the same kind of tricks and readers will recall that Richard (a former GMB union official) failed to speak out when the chips were down in Glasgow City Council last week.

All we heard then from the Scottish Labour leader in the run-up to Thursday's crunch meeting on the fight for equal pay in Glasgow was the sound of silence.


Brass Neck of 2017 (29/12/18)

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I have to admit that my 'Brass Neck of 2017' award was a very close run thing - with Frank McAveety, the GMB union, John Mason MSP and the Scottish Labour Party all in the running.

Until recently, John Mason was a strong favourite for his insulting and ridiculous comments about equal pay claimants in Glasgow 'paying' for their own employment rights to be upheld.

But the MSP for Shettleston has since been rebuked and taken to task by the Leader of Glasgow City Council, Susan Aitkenwho has confirmed this is not the view of the SNP led administration. 

So the award goes instead to the Scottish Labour Party and a delegate from Cunninghame North CLP, Joanna Baxter, for this completely shameless speech to Labour's annual conference 2017 in Brighton. 


Glasgow - Height of Hypocrisy (26/09/17)

How's this for shameful and shameless behaviour from a Scottish delegate to the 2017 Labour Party conference in Brighton.

The truth is that the pay arrangements judged to be 'unfit for purpose' by Scotland's highest civl court, the Court of Session, were put in place by a Labour run council in 2007 with the support of the local Labour supporting unions: the GMB, Unison and Unite.

The new SNP led Glasgow City Council have some way to go in clearing up this mess and if you ask me, they should not have sought leave to appeal the unanimous Court of Session decision because the council's WPBR pay arrangements are indefensible.

But the old-fashioned Labour and trade union left has been 'part of the problem' over equal pay for years and it's the absolute height of hypocrisy for them to try and lay the blame in Glasgow at the door of the SNP.

Scottish Labour in the Spotlight (16/01/18)

I noticed that Richard Leonard jumped on to Twitter just a few minutes ago so I posted this reply to his Tweet about events at Westminster.

Glasgow - Breaking News! (16/01/18)

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Stefan Cross has just posted this Glasgow update on Facebook and it's to remind people not to take anything for granted as we go into tomorrow's big council meeting.

I have to say I find it very hard to understand why all these 'good socialists' and 'trade unionists' in Labour's ranks find it so difficult to do the right thing when it comes to equal pay. 

Especially when Scotland's highest court, the Court of Session, has judged the City Council's cockamamy WPBR pay scheme to be 'unfit for purpose.

So far the only Labour councillor to have shown a bit of backbone is Cllr Matt Kerr which suggests to me that my old chum Frank McAveety (the current Labour Group leader) should step aside and make way for some fresh blood.

And isn't it shocking that the Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, a former GMB official, has had nothing of substance to say when there is so much at stake.



The word on the grapevine is that SNP are solid for not appealing, Greens are probable but not sure if all attending, but Labour couldn’t agree a position and it’s a free vote with the former leader and his supporters backing an appeal.

It’s therefore not ‘in the bag’ at all. 

So if you are in a Labour ward it’s still worth lobbying your councillor. 

Still shocks me that some in Labour want to fight low paid women seeking equal pay but it is what it is.

But big point here, whatever happens tomorrow, that’s far from the end. So no cheques in post just yet. Nevertheless removing prospect of appeal is huge step to a fair settlement sooner rather than later.

So get lobbying

Labour in the Spotlight (15/01/18)

Here are the eight Labour Party councillors, members of the City Council's Administration Committee, who will help decide on Wednesday whether to accept the unanimous judgment of Scotland's highest civil court, the Court of Session, which has ruled that Glasgow's WPBR pay arrangements are 'unfit for purpose'. 

For the life of me, given what we know now in 2018 and the complete 'kicking' the Council received in the Court of Session, I can't see how any Labour,councillor could vote to prolong this farce, especially with all these trade union members in Labour's ranks.  


Labour Councillors

Frank McAveety
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Frank is a former teacher and has (or at least had) a brother who is an official with the Unite trade union. Frank received a donation of £200 to Glasgow's Labour Group to help with election expenses in 2017

Archie Graham

Archie has been around a long time and knows the difference between doing right and doing wrong. He is a member of the Unite trade union and the husband of the former Labour Scottish Leader and prominent 'feminist' Johann Lamont. I really can't imagine Archie voting to do anything else other than to bite the bullet and settle these cases, but who knows? 

Bill Butler
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Bill is a former Labour MSP who was very 'left-wing' in his time as aI recall. According to Glasgow City Council's register of interests Bill is a member of the GMB union - so how could he possibly do anything other than agree that the time has come for the council to concede defeat? 

Elaine McDougall
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Elaine is another member of the GMB trade union - enough said!

Martin Rhodes
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Martin is apparently employed as a Director of the Scottish Fair Trade Forum, a charity and company limited by guarantee. Martin is also another member of the Unite trade union.

Matt Kerr
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Matt appears to be a slightly younger member of the Labour contingent on Glasgow City Council and as well as being Chair of the Licensing Board (for which he receives a salary of £24,341) Martin is a member of the CWU trade union.

Maureen Burke
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Maureen was temporarily appointed to the position of Organiser for Anas Sarwar's election campaign to become Labour leader (which was unsuccessful), but appears to be one of the few Labour councillors not to be a trade union member although I understand that Maureen did work for well known Glasgow 'feminist' politician in Margaret Curran - so surely her support should be 'in the bag'

Soryia Siddique
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Soryia is a Science Lecturer as well as being a Glasgow councillor, but why would a young women rooted in the traditions of the Labour Party be anything other than supportive on the issue of equal pay?

Glasgow - Breaking News! (15/01/18)

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I take my hat off to Councillor Matt Kerr who appears to have taken a principled stand on the Court of Session's ruling that Glasgow City Council's WPBR pay scheme is 'unfit for purpose' 

Now if other Labour councillors have the courage of their convictions and join forces with the SNP and others on Wednesday, then 17 January 2018 could be (and should be) a truly momentous day in the long fight for equal pay in Glasgow. 

Here's what Matt had to say to one of his constituents earlier via Facebook and I, for one, would be more than happy to sit down with Glasgow's councillors to explain how, from an A4ES perspective, the City Council got itself into such a terrible mess.


Dear P,

Please rest assured that I will not be voting to take the legal process any further.
As far as I can see, the broad legal position is now clear, and it's time to get into the details in order to settle the issue.

Questions now need to be answered however, in terms of the legal and professional advice received by this council in good faith some 12 years ago when the initial attempt at delivering equal pay was made. Helpfully, the paper on Wednesday's agenda acknowledges this, and I hope that whilst work must now go on to create a new pay and grading structure, lessons need to be learned on the process that got us to this point in the first place.

In terms of supporting my local constituents, I will assist any individual who approaches me for help of guidance on this matter, and I will do what I can to influence the discussions and negotiations which lie ahead.


Cllr Matt Kerr

Take Your Best Shot, Richard! (16/01/18)

I've been scouring the newspapers and web sites this morning to see what Richard Leonard has had to say about the fight for equal pay in Glasgow City Council.

So far, my search has been in vain even though there's an emergency meeting of the City Council taking place on Wednesday to decide whether Glasgow accepts the judgement of Scotland's highest civil court - that its WPBR pay arrangements are 'unfit for purpose' and need to be replaced. 

The SNP Leader of the Council Susan Aitken has nailed her colours to the mast and has said repeatedly that Glasgow will not appeal this decision to the UK Supreme Court in London - in effect that the game in finally up.  

But the opposition Labour Group on Glasgow City Council has said nothing and so the vote at Wednesday's crucial meeting remains in the balance - the SNP have 11 votes out of 23, Labour have 8, the Greens 2 and the Conservatives 2.

So the SNP need the support of at least 1 other Glasgow councillor in order to do the right thing by the City Council;s largely female workforce who have been denied their rights to equal pay for the past 10 years.

Lots of activity is taking place behind the scenes, as you can imagine, and here's a Facebook post from Stefan Cross calling on the Scottish Labour leader to rise up and take his best shot - with some inspiration from the 'rap' musical Hamilton.

I wrote to Richard yesterday, by email, but I will make a point of sending him a copy of this post from the blog as well.



I’m a huge fan of the musical Hamilton and there’s a chorus of rise up during a song called ‘my shot’.

It’s about seizing an opportunity and not hiding in the shadows or just being part of the crowd.

The new Labour leader in Scotland made much of his commitment to equal pay during his campaign.

With this history I’m surprised that I’ve heard nothing from the new leader concerning the biggest equal pay case in Scotland. Especially as the case relates to the lowest paid most disadvantaged group, low paid working class women.

Now, with the emergency meeting on Wednesday there is a real “my shot” moment for Richard.

Will he “rise up” and publicly put labour on the womens’ side?

Come on Richard take your shot!

Stefan Cross

Where's Richard? (16/01/18)

What has Richard Leonard been Tweeting about these past couple of days?

Well here's what I pulled off the Scottish Labour leader's Twitter feed earlier today - and surprise, surprise there's not a word about the fight for equal pay in Glasgow City Council.

How very disappointing, especially as Labour-led Glasgow City Council:
  • created the equal pay problem in the first place
  • defended the indefensible WPBR pay scheme for 10 years
  • even though Scotland's highest court judged the WPBR to be 'unfit for purpose'
But maybe there's time for Richard to show some leadership by calling on Labour councillors in Glasgow to accept the unanimous judgment of the Court of Session. 

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