Socialist Worker

Solidarity and sympathy strikes as workers refuse to cross Glasgow pay picket lines

by Sarah Bates in Glasgow
Issue No. 2628

Around 8,000 women are on strike for equal pay in Glasgow

Around 8,000 women are on strike for equal pay in Glasgow (Pic: Andrew McGowan)


A fight for equal pay is sparking a strike wave across Glasgow City Council (GCC).

Some 8,000 workers in education, care, cleaning and catering services took their second strike day on Wednesday against a discriminatory pay scheme.

The first day of action on Tuesday saw GCC services grind to a halt and a demo of up to 10,000 march through the city centre.

Women Unison and GMB union members have fought for 12 years for their jobs to be evaluated equally to men’s jobs. They have demanded a financial settlement for pay they have been denied.

Now other workers have refused to cross their picket lines – and have turned their fire on the bosses.

Janitors in schools and staff at land and environmental services, who are responsible for maintaining parks, roads and outdoor spaces, also walked out during Tuesday’s strike.

One janitor outside a school told Socialist Worker that strikers “just had to stick at it and tough it out”.

“My wife is a home carer—she’s losing pay, I’m losing pay,” he said. “But it can be done—we should know.”

Many janitors who walked out in solidarity this week mounted mass pickets during a fight against cuts in 2016 and 2017.

Meanwhile, bin workers turned up to work at 6am but refused to take the wagons out after a picket line began.

When bosses at one depot told bin workers they wouldn’t be paid for the day, workers handed strikers their packed lunches as they walked out in response.

Megan, picketing outside Polmadie recycling centre on Wednesday, said the support was “amazing”.

Strikers celebrating after other workers refused to cross their picket lines

Strikers celebrating after other workers refused to cross their picket lines (Pic: Socialist Worker)


“The council like to say we’re part of the family,” she said. “But when the bin workers came out yesterday I really felt like I was part of the council family then.”

Underestimated

She said the council “underestimated that we’d get this kind of support”.

The solidarity action by around 600 workers meant no bins were collected from the city’s nine depots during the 48-hour action.

Schools were some of the most affected workplaces. Every primary, nursery and Additional Support Needs school was shut down.

One teacher who refused to cross the picket line at Eastbank Academy has been told not to return to the school.

She was reportedly called by the school’s depute head who said she “would not get another job in Glasgow”.

But workers are right to respect strikers’ picket lines – and unions must defend any who face victimisation as a result.

The action had a big impact on services. Strikers told Socialist Worker that takeaways were used to feed service users in care homes and children were given sandwiches instead of hot school dinners.

And services run by Glasgow Life—GCC’s arms length management organisation—have also been affected. The Mitchell Library and Kelvingrove art gallery and museum were closed during the walkout.

The extraordinary scenes in Glasgow this week are a powerful reminder of workers’ strength against the bosses.

In the past, council bosses have told the low-paid women workers that their pay could only be increased if male council workers received a cut.

But GCC isn’t divided along the lines of men and women workers—but those who are fighting for pay justice and those who are obstructing it.

The strikers have the power to win. And the militancy and solidarity shown by the workers of Glasgow is something that every worker can be inspired by.

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

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