Thousands of low-paid workers are getting ready to take to picket lines and deliver a huge 48-hour strike in Glasgow.
It shows how organised workers can fight for women’s rights and equal pay.
Over 8,000 Unison and GMB union members who work for Glasgow City Council (GCC) are due to walk out on Tuesday and Wednesday - 23 and 24 October.
The action could see nurseries, secondary and primary schools shut down and home care services grind to a halt.
Strikers are fighting for compensation because of an unfair pay scheme that saw men’s work graded higher than women’s.
Some of the workers set to strike were outsourced to Cordia.
It was a council-owned arms-length management organisation, which provided care, cleaning and catering services for the local authority.
The council dissolved Cordia and workers were brought back in house from 1 October this year.
Some workers will stand to receive tens of thousands in compensation because the council has dragged its feet for 12 years over agreeing payment.
When the council was Labour-run it refused to budge for a decade. After local elections in May 2017, the Scottish National Party (SNP) took control and agreed to resolve the workers’ pay claim this January.
But it has frustrated the process and has not sat down for meaningful negotiations with union reps and legal firm Action4Equality.
Workers are fighting for a transparent negotiation procedure that sees the council agree a financial payment formula with union reps.
Jim, a Glasgow City Unison activist, told Socialist Worker they were worried the council would try cynical tactics to end the dispute.
“We think they might send individual letters to workers just before Christmas,” he said. “They might offer them relatively large sums—they might dangle £10,000 but folks will be entitled to £30,000 or £40,000.”
The council has attempted to take the process of working out what workers are owed out of the hands of the unions.
Jim explained that each worker should receive a different amount. It would be based on re-grading roles and taking into consideration overtime and pay agreements. “Some estimates say it will cost GCC a billion pounds to fix this”, he said.
“But this is money that’s been stolen from these women and is life changing for some people.”
Insultingly SNP council leader Susan Aitken said last week, “I’m not entirely sure the women know the basis on which they are striking.
“I’m not convinced they actually know the demands made on us.”
Jim said, “That’s not gone down well at all. If anything, it’s stiffened people’s resolve.”
Over 10,000 workers are part of the claim against GCC. And with 900 workers joining Unison in the last six weeks, the numbers are swelling.
“Folk are joining the union so they can fight,” said Jim. “The biggest increase in membership we’ve seen is in education and former Cordia workplaces.”
Greedy council bosses have forced these women into action—they may regret it.
Pay fight for teachers in Scotland
Thousands of Scottish teachers are expected to join a demonstration in Glasgow on 27 October to demand a 10 percent pay rise.
Coming just days after the equal pay strikes in the city, it will build the sense of resistance to austerity.
The EIS union demonstration is a chance to show the strength of feeling against the Scottish government and the local authorities’ 3 percent pay offer.
Teachers’ pay has been cut by nearly a quarter in real terms over the past decade.
But the EIS is moving terribly slowly towards strikes.
It has announced there will be a ballot, beginning on 30 October, on whether to accept or reject the bosses’ offer.
If it is for rejection there will then be more talks and then, possibly, an indicative ballot on industrial action.
Then there might be a formal strike ballot.
This risks wasting the momentum.
EIS leaders should move far more quickly towards a campaign of hard-hitting action.