Equal pay strike hits Glasgow schools and services

Andrew Milligan/PA Wire/PA Images

Hundreds of schools and nurseries are closed in Glasgow after around 8,000 workers began a two-day strike over a long-running dispute about equal pay.

The GMB and Unison unions, which have coordinated the industrial action, said it was called amid a lack of progress on the equal pay claims of thousands of women.

All we have had are meetings about meetings and talks about talks. It’s time for some action” – Mary Dawson, Unison Glasgow chair

A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: “This strike is unnecessary and dangerous.
 
“Unnecessary because the council is absolutely committed to delivering equal pay and reaching a negotiated settlement – and dangerous because its impact will be felt most keenly by the most vulnerable people in the city.
 
“We understand why many of our workforce are angry about equal pay, but there is nothing that this strike can achieve that we are not already doing.”

Unison says the women have been waiting 12 years for equal pay. The long-running equal pay case, which culminated in a victory for the claimants at the Court of Session in May 2017, involved the pay protection introduced in 2006 following a job evaluation scheme (JES) – itself introduced in response to a wave of equal pay awards.

The claimants argued that the pay protection scheme had the effect of discriminating against women by excluding them, and that the loss of bonuses for male-dominated groups following the JES resulted in those groups being given the benefit of pay protection (“red-circling”).

According to the claimants, as these bonuses favoured male groups, the way in which the pay protection scheme operated was fundamentally discriminatory against women. In Glasgow City Council v Unison and others, the Court of Session upheld the earlier Employment Appeal Tribunal decision that the pay protection scheme was discriminatory against women.

Another case in November 2017 found in favour of the claimants and the since then, the council said it planned to settle the equal pay claims. But unions say the talks have made no progress despite 21 meetings being held in the past 10 months.

Equal pay audits

Conduct an equal pay audit

Unison Glasgow chair Mary Dawson said: “We have given the council 10 months to make progress on addressing the historical discrimination suffered by these workers.

“However, the council has agreed nothing, offered nothing and all we have had are meetings about meetings and talks about talks. It’s time for some action.”

In September, a Unison ballot of nearly 3,000 education workers saw 90% vote for strike action, a second ballot of more than 2,000 home carers, school cleaners, caterers and other staff employed by the council’s arms-length company Cordia saw 99% backing action. A GMB ballot of its members working for Cordia resulted in 98% backing for strike action.

All mainstream primary schools and nurseries have closed, while secondary schools have remained open but with services such as school meals affected. Home care services have also been affected, but the Unison regional organiser Mandy McDowell stressed that the union and its members will make sure there is full “life and limb” cover for services helping vulnerable people.

Museums, sports centres and libraries will open but cafes and cleaning services could be disrupted.

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