A trade union leader just fixed the BBC’s headline on the Glasgow women’s strike

Brian Finlay

On 23 and 24 October, Glasgow City Council (GCC) faces strike action from over 8,000 employees. The mostly female group are striking over pay inequality. The employees in female-dominated roles, such as cleaning, earn up to £3 less per hour than those in male-dominated roles. The male-dominated roles include refuse collection.

But the BBC needed some help with their headline on covering this story.

The Beeb decided to lead in with:

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But president of the Scottish Trades Union Congress Lynn Henderson was on hand to “reframe” the focus of the story:

Henderson fairly points out the state broadcaster should prioritise the inequality the employees are facing over service disruption.

Glasgow and its striking women

GCC’s pay dispute stems from its actions in 2006. The then-Labour led council drafted the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR), an evaluation scheme to address pay inequality. From 2009, claimants took to employment tribunals to challenge the scheme. They did so as they believed it favoured male-dominated roles.

In May 2017, the SNP gained control of GCC and formed a minority administration.

In August 2017, the Court of Session ruled in favour of female employees. It agreed that women were being treated less favourably by the WPBR scheme. So in January 2018, the council announced it would negotiate a settlement for workers affected by the equal pay claim. But in October 2018, the members of GMB and Unison members are striking for 48 hours. The union balloted for strike action because of lack of progress in the talks between GCC and the unions.

‘We’ve bent over backwards’

As reported in the Guardian, the SNP leader Susan Aitken of GCC said:

I believe [the unions] are misrepresenting the scale of progress which has been going on. There’s negotiations taking place right now. [It is] extremely complex. There’s a huge amount of data but as I said, we have 30 people working full time on this in order to make progress.

She continued:

We’ve bent over backwards to try to meet every demand that the trade unions have made. To be honest, I don’t believe their demands are strong enough to justify action of this scale.

GMB Scotland union organiser Rhea Wolfson stated that Labour was responsible for pay inequality. But there have been 21 meetings in the past 10 months, with little progress.

Wolfson went on to say:

Equal pay is not a gift to be given, it is a right for our members to demand. At the moment, 8,000 of our members have gone on strike today because they have lost faith that that demand is going to be met.

Aitken told BBC Radio Scotland that:

We’re working towards an agreed settlement by the end of this year [and] not any sort of low-ball offer

The politicians said…

Politicians have been vocal over the strike. But between SNP and Labour politicians, tensions have erupted over who is responsible for the strikes.

Jeremy Corbyn has tweeted his support for the Glasgow women’s strike:

But SNP MP for Glasgow South Stewart McDonald was quick to criticise Labour politicians tweeting support:

And Scottish Labour councillor for Rutherglen Central and North took to Twitter:

Scottish Green Party co-convenor and Glasgow Regional MSP Patrick Harvie tweeted in support of the strike:

So it might be useful for both the SNP and Labour to work together to resolve the issue. The workers are the ones that have missed out. Perhaps leaving the petty party politics until after a deal has been struck would be more appropriate.

And the BBC might want to take Henderson’s advice for headlines in the future.

Get Involved!

– Join us, so we can keep bringing you the news that matters.

– Tweet in support of the strike using #GlasgowWomensStrike

Featured image via PSIglobalunion/YouTube

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Brian Finlay