Mark Whitehead 05 November 2018

Glasgow - peace on the horizon?

Glasgow - peace on the horizon? image

When 8,500 women walked out on strike last month to demand progress on their claim for equal pay with men doing similar work, it was a reminder that collective action is alive and well.

Membership of trade unions may be massively down compared with their heyday in the 1970s but in Glasgow solidarity seemed to resurface as the city was hit by a strongly-supported and determined two-day action.

Closer examination reveals a more nuanced and challenging picture. The three unions involved – Unison, the biggest, GMB and Unite – were all involved in talks with the city council in the traditional way across the negotiating table.

But they were joined by a third party, Action 4 Equality Scotland, a limited company specialising in equal pay claims against local authorities, which is handling several thousand cases on behalf of individual Glasgow City Council employees.

It gets more complicated. All three unions are also dealing with thousands of individual claims on behalf of their members as well as acting for their memberships en bloc in the usual way.

Evidently this pot pourri on the staff side has not helped create a straightforward route to settlement. The council complained that in the weeks before the two-day strike the staff side was unclear about its demands, making it difficult to avert the potentially damaging industrial action which saw schools shut, refuse collection suspended, the city art gallery closed and vulnerable people hit by reductions in home care.

The staff side argue that they have presented a single, united front throughout and accuse the council of suspending negotiations for no good reason. They say the council was dragging its feet and failing to come up with any firm proposals to reach a settlement in a dispute which dates back to the early 21st century when the then Labour administration produced a package aimed at solving the equal pay disparities.

The council's current SNP leadership, which resolved to settle the dispute when it took control early this year, hinted at political motivation behind the strike, questioning why the previous Labour administration was spared any industrial action over the previous 12 years – a claim clearly rejected by the unions.

Meanwhile council leader Susan Aitken protested that she was totally in agreement with the case for equal pay while disagreeing with the 'unnecessary and dangerous' and walkout.

The strike appeared to achieve its objective in restarting talks, though the council argues they were progressing in any case and has promised to come up with a proposed package by the end of December.

But reaching a solution is not made any simpler by the mix of individual and collective claims being made on the staff side, and the array of organisations involved. Any proposals presented by the council side will have to be considered by all the organisations in their roles both on behalf of their membership as collectives and as agents in individual claims. There are several components and huge amounts of data covering hours, grades and job descriptions involved.

It is an extremely complex situation, and not exactly straightforward collective bargaining in the traditional sense. But a settlement will have to be reached one way or another and with goodwill on both sides – and a continuing mandate for further industrial action if the unions lose faith – come the New Year a lasting peace may be finally on the horizon.

SIGN UP
For your free daily news bulletin
Highways jobs

Senior Social Worker - Supporting NQSW's

Essex County Council
£40637 - £49183 per annum + + 26 days leave & Local Gov Pension
Senior Practitioner - Supporting NQSW'sPermanent, Full Time£40,637 to £49,183 per annumLocation
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Senior Communications Manager - Essex Safeguarding Adult Board

Essex County Council
Negotiable
Senior Communications Manager - Essex Safeguarding Adult BoardFixed Term, Part TimeUp to £36,057 per annumLocation
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Business Support Manager - Learning & Early Support

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£25,481 - £27,041
You will be expected to manage a team and the workloads of Business Support Officers. Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Business Support Officer - Catering

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£19,312 - £19,698 per annum
This job is Temporary for up to 12 months to cover operational needs. Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Social Worker/Senior Practitioner - Duty & Advice (37 hours)

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£30,507 - £38,813
This is an exciting time to be part of this team where we are building our multi -agency team working closely with... Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Public Property

Latest issue - Public Property News

This issue of Public Property examines how how flexible workspaces can lead the way in regeneration for local authorities, Why local authority intervention is key to successful urban regeneration schemes and if the Government’s challenge of embracing beauty is an opportunity for communities.

The March issue also takes a closer look at Blackburn with Darwen Council's first digital health hub to help people gain control over health and care services.

Register for your free digital issue