Socialist Worker

Women strike for equal pay in Glasgow - and show the power of workers

by Sarah Bates in Glasgow
Issue No. 2627

Women workers on strike in Glasgow on Tuesday

Women workers on strike in Glasgow on Tuesday (Pic: Andrew McGowan)


Thousands of striking women flooded Glasgow city centre this week demanding that bullying bosses pay up now.

Some 8,000 GMB and Unison union members in education, care, cleaning and catering services began a two-day strike on Tuesday. It is the latest move in their battle for equal pay.

They have waged an inspiring 12-year battle against an unfair pay structure that saw work predominately done by women paid less than men’s.

Shona Thomson, branch secretary of GMB Glasgow City Council (GCC) branch told Socialist Worker “It’s our money, and it’s been stolen from us for years.

“So many women are fired up and we’re excited to be here. It’s a long time coming.”

Shona, a home carer, said the job now carried “more pressure and more tasks” than ever before—but without a fair pay scheme.

She’s part of caring services—brought back in-house to GCC from “arms length management organisation” Cordia earlier this month.

A militant march of 5,000 through the city centre followed a busy morning picketing schools and other council workplaces. In some cases, other workers such as bin workers and teachers refused to cross picket lines.

Megan has been a home carer for 18 months. She said picketing is an important part of the action. “We’re picketing because we need to be visible,” she said. “People can’t support us without a picket line.”

The Scottish National Party (SNP) controls Glasgow City Council, and leader Susan Aitken promised to resolve the dispute as part of her election campaign last year.

Strikers were furious at Aitken’s recent comments in the Scottish press that workers “didn’t know what their demands are”.

Generations

On the march in Glasgow

On the march in Glasgow (Pic: Andrew McGowan)


“We know why we’re striking,” Megan said. “The union don’t tell us we’re going on strike – we are the union. We’re standing up for future generations.”

Labour controlled the council for the first decade of the dispute. Both Labour and the SNP have failed the women.

Carol, a cleaner for ten years and Unison member, was picketing outside Glasgow Civic Centre. She said their strikes meant “nothing would get touched” inside the workplace and that the 12-year fight has been “like torture”.

Striker Maggie echoed many others’ fears that the council would try a dirty trick in December.

Workers fear it could offer far less compensation than they are entitled to, in the hope they will be tempted to accept it just before Christmas.

“They might try to dangle a carrot”, said Maggie. “But people won’t accept it, not this time.”

Many feel the strike taps into wider frustrations.

Carol explained, “We’re standing up for ourselves, it’s not just equal pay. Some folk work three jobs and if someone is off sick or on holiday they have to do their work too.”

The inspiring women of Glasgow have shown by their strike who really runs the city. During their action, every nursery and primary school was shut—and some secondary schools too.

It’s an example of the power that workers have when they act together. With strikers ready to call more action in November and December, the union leaderships must get fully behind their fight.

Send messages of support to Unison Glasgow City Branch on Facebook and to scotland@gmb.org.uk

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