Socialist Worker

Unions declare victory in Glasgow equal pay fight

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2638

Marching through Glasgow for a strike rally in October

Marching through Glasgow for a strike rally in October (Pic: Andrew McGowan)


Trade unions are claiming victory in the equal pay fight negotiations at Glasgow City Council.

Workers have been battling for 12 years over discriminatory pay scheme that saw women council workers paid less than men.

The breakthrough follows action in October last year when 8,000 cleaners, caterers, home carers and teaching assistants stage a 48 hour walkout.

The GMB and Unison unions, alongside legal team Action4Equality announced on Thursday that a deal with the SNP-led council had been agreed.

Glasgow City Council’s previous Labour administration dragged its heels over resolving the dispute for over a decade.

Unison steward Lynn Marie O’Hara, a cleaning supervisor in a care home said on hearing news of the deal workers “burst out crying and hugging each other.”

It’s a major breakthrough in a dispute that has raged for so long, that many women have died before they were able to settle their claims.  

Excluded

Workers were put on lower pay scales than work performed predominately by men and excluded from bonus schemes which male workers had access to.

The deal affects workers in education, social work, administration, cultural services and care services. Many are so low paid they are forced to work two or three part-time jobs just to survive.

Some workers are forced to use food banks, despite having multiple contracts with the council.

And the settlement will mean “people can make better choices, they can work less hours.” Lynn Marie said.

Details have yet to be announced, but Mike Kirby, Unison Scottish Secretary said the agreement “finalises the principles and structure of any payout”.

Both sides have agreed a rough formula for how individuals claim will be settled. But the payout will be different for each worker depending on length of time worked, unsocial hours pay, and a host of other factors.

Lynn Marie, who had never struck before, said October’s walkout was “crucial” in making the council move.

“The strike was wonderful and the outcome is wonderful,” she said.

“We shut down Glasgow, we felt bad about it, but we had to do it. Bin people came out and supported us—we showed people made Glasgow, we make it every day.”

The women that make Glasgow are striking back
The women that make Glasgow are striking back
  Read More

Women will likely wait months until they find what they are being offered, and decide if they want to challenge it.

They must have all the details, and the chance to discuss them collectively, as soon as possible.

Unions should keep up the pressure through mass meetings and protests to demand that workers get the payment they deserve.

If the council attempts to renege on its promises, they need to be ready to bring workers out on strike to fight for more.

Some 13,000 claims remain unresolved, and is likely to cost at last £500 million.

These workers deserve every penny paid to them by Glasgow City Council—but their settlement shouldn’t come at the expense of jobs and services.

There will likely be an attempt by the right of the administration to force through cuts under the pretext of paying the equal pay settlement.

But ordinary people shouldn’t be held responsible for the council administration withholding wages from workers.

Successive Labour and SNP-led councils knew for over a decade and appear to have failed to build savings to settle the claim.

The gains that have been won are a result of the actions of the striking women—and others who supported them. It should be a lesson to unions everywhere.


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