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From The Socialist newspaper, 10 October 2018

8,000 Glasgow workers plan historic mass strike for equal pay

Glasgow council workers protesting for pay equality, photo by Glasgow City Unison

Glasgow council workers protesting for pay equality, photo by Glasgow City Unison   (Click to enlarge)

A historic mass strike for equal pay by 8,000 council workers in Glasgow, 90% of whom are women, will take place on 23 and 24 October. The action is organised by local government unions Unison and GMB.

The strike will include home care workers, cleaners, caterers, learning support workers, child development officers, school administration staff and janitors.

It is expected to shut down primary schools, nurseries and cultural buildings across the city, as well as suspending normal service to 6,000 care clients.

For 12 years, council workers have been underpaid by a scheme that was supposed to end inequality - the 'Workforce Benefits and Pay Review' (WBPR).

The Court of Session, Scotland's highest civil court, has ruled twice that WBPR is unequal.

Successive Blairite Labour and now Scottish National Party (SNP) council administrations have failed to give these low-paid workers what they are owed. Strike ballots smashed the Tories' anti-union thresholds with 90% votes for action.

Socialist Party Scotland members play a leading role in the socialist-led Glasgow City Unison branch. We offer full support to the strikers.

Denise, Norah and Isabelle are Unison members and home care workers. They spoke to Matt Dobson from Socialist Party Scotland.

Denise: "For ten months, and after 21 meetings with the trade unions and [joint union and legal campaign] Action 4 Equality, the council now say they haven't even looked at our proposals for comparators for job roles.

"It's insulting. The council have agreed nothing, offered nothing, they just want meetings about meetings. There is righteous anger among members. Enough is enough!

"We gave them a chance after they publicly committed to real negotiations and participation from claimants in the summer after the massive vote for action in our consultative ballot. They blew it. They now have a massive strike in response.

"They are out to sell us short and save money, instead of for real justice. They have tried to hang on to WBPR when especially the shift allowances are discriminatory."

Norah spoke about the replacement of the previous unequal pay scheme in 2006: "We have learned very bitter lessons from that experience. We were offered small amounts near Christmas, way below what we were owed.

Cynically exploited

"Some women took it just to give something to their families. Their desperation was cynically exploited.

"Never again with this. We are all absolutely determined to get the full amount we are owed. If they think they can use Christmas again, they are mistaken.

"The council need to understand we are serious about this action and we have mass support. A woman came to me the other day in TK Maxx after seeing the uniform. 'Good on you, and all the best,' she said. Our clients, who we care for, want to come to the pickets and demonstrations."

Denise, Norah and Isabelle also spoke of the pride in their union and the intense atmosphere of fightback building up to the strike.

Hundreds of new members have joined. Ballot and strike strategy meetings, with hundreds of members attending, have been electric and have built the mood.

Equal pay has become a lightning rod for all the anger on workplace issues Unison is taking up, like workload. "Last year the red alert during the snow storms saw our frontline staff out risking their safety getting to people's homes."

Isabelle: "The physical strain of home care work is massive. Under this pay scheme, the overtime isn't worthwhile. I've ended up worse off with more work!"

Another key issue strikers are fighting on is how pensions will be factored in. Other councils have made pay-outs without pensions included.

Norah: "We are fighting for this because it has impacted that much on folks' lives. We have [equal pay] claimants who are now 70, who because of this have been struggling for years, who haven't been able to enjoy a pension.

"Women have died in this city waiting on equal pay. It's beyond a disgrace! And still they delay with the money."

Home care workers are incensed that senior council officers and the SNP administration have publicly said a home care strike for equal pay is unjustified as it puts vulnerable people in danger.

These councillors and managers have no clue about the demands of the job, and how difficult it is to survive on low pay. This strike has been provoked by their inaction.

Glasgow workers reading about the strike of Birmingham council home care workers in the Socialist sent full solidarity to those workers.

The cost of implementing equal pay compensation, and a new fair and equal pay evaluation scheme going forward, could be over 500 million.

Glasgow City Unison has consistently demanded that this must not be paid for by cuts to any services or selling assets that benefit the public.

The council must use its borrowing powers and campaign for financial assistance from the Scottish and Westminster governments.

Norah, Denise and Isabelle had a final message: "We say we will not be made to feel guilty by this council.

"They have robbed us and seem to be still trying to cut down on what we are owed. It's our money that we worked and sacrificed for.

"We say to everyone around the country and in the city: picket with us, join the demonstrations, donate to the strike fund. We are fighting also for young people, for future council workers.

"What do we want? Equal pay! When do we want it? Now!"

Trade union branches should send solidarity:

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 10 October 2018:

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