Working-class women in Glasgow have once again defeated the Scottish National Party (SNP) -led council over equal pay. Faced with a 48-hour strike on 29/30 March by 12,000 low-paid workers, the council leadership embarked on a massive climbdown just days before the strike was due to begin.
The strike would have closed all primary schools and nurseries in the city. Home care, cleaning, catering, residential homes, homelessness hostels, addiction services, and admin functions across the council would have been hugely impacted.
The dispute was ignited when the SNP leadership in Glasgow tore up the equal pay agreement that had followed the successful 2018 strike. They hoped to divide the workers into the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ and thereby cut the equal pay bill by hundreds of millions of pounds.
Many thousands of workers who were due interim payments in compensation after years of unequal pay would be, under the SNP’s plan, excluded. £500 million was paid in compensation following the 2018 strike action.
The trade unions have opened the door to hundreds of millions in further payments being made to low-paid women workers in Glasgow.
Future equal pay compensation payments were under threat for thousands of workers, including those in social care, early years nurseries, and clerical / admin jobs. As the workers pointed out, they were paid out in 2019 because their pay was unequal – nothing has changed since then, it’s still unequal. The same jobs in the same unequal pay scheme.
Yet the council refused to pay up and tried to exclude many from payments due from 2018 to 2022. The council’s actions are a cynical ploy to divide trade unionists.
The trade unions, UNISON, the GMB, and UNITE, launched a campaign demanding “Don’t Dump the Deal.” This led to a huge ballot return in which UNISON and GMB members voted by over 90% in favour of a return to strike action. 9,000 Unison members and 3,000 GMB members would have been out on strike next week.
Facing the reality of a united workforce who had stood out against these divide and rule tactics, and with a council election campaign due to begin, Susan Aitken, the SNP leader in Glasgow, was forced to back down and ‘undump the deal’.
The council has now pledged that all those entitled to payments will receive them on the exact same basis as agreed in 2019. Moreover, payments will also be made to cover 2018 to March 2022.
The strike action planned for April 20/21 April is still on the table, “because we want an implementation plan produced by the council in the coming weeks that is acceptable to the joint claimants’ legal team and the Unison branch. If an acceptable implementation plan is not forthcoming then we will not hesitate to implement the strike mandate.”
Socialist Party Scotland members active in the leadership of Glasgow City UNISON have played an important role in the dispute. As the Glasgow City UNISON statement makes clear: “This important concession has been won for one reason and one reason only – the willingness of trade union members to take strike action.
The outcome proves once more that militant industrial action is essential to defeating cuts-making councillors and the bosses generally.
Socialist Party Scotland and the Scottish Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition will be taking those lessons out to working-class communities in Glasgow as part of the upcoming campaign for the 5 May Scottish local council elections.
Glasgow City UNISON statement
UNISON is pleased to report that the council has conceded they will not “dump the deal” and will now maintain the 2019 arrangements to calculate further interim compensation payments. This important concession has been won for one reason and one reason only – the willingness of trade union members to take strike action.
The work to agree the detail of the further interim compensation payments will now revert back to our joint claimants’ legal team (A4E, UNISON, GMB and UNITE). The council’s stated aim is to begin making payments from October this year but there is still a lot of work to do before this can happen.
The UNISON branch’s pay justice committee – made up of elected UNISON stewards – has therefore agreed to postpone the strike action planned for 29/30 March.
However, the strike action planned for 20/21 April and the Glasgow Life strike ballot have not been withdrawn at this point. Glasgow Life members should continue to vote YES to strike action. This is because we want an implementation plan produced by the council in the coming weeks that is acceptable to the joint claimants legal team and the UNISON branch. If an acceptable implementation plan is not forthcoming then we will not hesitate to implement the strike mandate.
We will issue further communications in due course.
In the meantime, well done to UNISON members who so clearly demonstrated their willingness to strike. Let’s maintain and build on the trade union organising we have done. There will be further battles ahead no doubt.
If you have not lodged an equal pay claim then contact email@example.com for a claim form. Remember that equal pay claims are individual.
UNISON Glasgow Branch