Unions slam Glasgow City Council for ‘breaking promises on equal pay’

Caitlin Logan

Unison and GMB warn of industrial action if council fails to work with claimants on settlement

GLASGOW CITY Council has been accused of breaking its promise to negotiate a settlement of equal play claims put forward by over 7,000 predominantly low-paid women.

The council agreed in January to settle the dispute without legal challenge after a ruling confirmed that pay structures put in place in 2006 were discriminatory.

However, Unison and GMB Scotland, which are each representing around 2,000 of the claimants in the negotiations, have said this commitment has not been met in the spirit the council had promised.

In a meeting with the council earlier this week, Unison said it was made clear that the council had “failed to meet all commitments to settlement milestones”, “rejected the claimants’ side route to settlement”, and “chosen a route that excludes the claimants’ side and will produce nothing until November”.

Brian Smith, branch secretary for Unison Glasgow said: “We cannot have confidence in any proposals that are reached without our involvement and are then presented at the 11th hour to put pressure on the claimants.

“This is not what the council leader promised in January, not what the council politicians decided and breaks the commitments given in June after the consultative strike ballots.

READ MORE: Victory for women workers as council agrees to equal pay proposals

“We have therefore asked the council leader to meet with the claimant side and reassure us that she remains fully committed to ‘making sure the women get what they’re due’.”

Council leader Susan Aitken, who came into the role in June 2017 when the SNP administration took over, campaigned on a manifesto commitment to resolve the dispute. At the turn of the year, Aitken said that the new council would “draw a line under” the approach of the previous Labour administration which was “involved in litigation for over a decade”.

It is estimated that the settlement could cost up to £500m to resolve. In May, the council rejected a settlement offer put forward by the claimant side.

Smith said Unison’s preferred option is to reach a negotiated settlement and that it will remain “ready to engage in meaningful discussion”. However, he added: “Unison is now considering its next steps including moving to industrial action ballots.”

In a consultative ballot in June, Unison members voted “overwhelmingly” in favour of industrial action, although no such action has yet been taken. 

Following this week’s meeting, GMB released a statement saying the council had thrown “their own timetable for settlement in the bin, having failed to meet deadlines for the past three months”.

GMB has called for its members to attend an emergency meeting on 13 August at Fountain House in Glasgow to vote on “forthcoming strike action”.

READ MORE: Victory for Glasgow women workers as court orders £50m payout by city council

Responding to the renewed criticisms, Susan Aitken, leader of Glasgow City Council said the council remained “100 per cent committed to delivering justice for equal pay claimants” and would seek to have a settlement figure agreed by the end of 2018.

She said: “No-one from either side has ever been under any illusion this process would be quick and easy, and the entrenchment of the competing positions over a decade cannot be undone overnight. Nonetheless significant progress, backed by the democratic process of the council, has been made.

“This progress includes ending the legal challenge, putting the political oversight, which had been lacking, in place, holding fortnightly formal negotiating meetings; bringing Cordia, where most of the affected staff are employed, back into the Council and harmonising their terms and conditions; and a decision taken to replace the councils entire pay and grading structure.

“Furthermore, the process of sourcing how the council will fund the final settlement is now underway.”

Aitken said she agreed that women needed to be compensated and that a new fair pay and grading system was needed, adding that she remains committed to ensuring the “long-running and complex matter is resolved as quickly as possible to the year-long timetable all parties agreed to at the beginning of the year”.

Picture: CommonSpace

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