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:
But president of the Scottish Trades Union Congress Lynn Henderson was on hand to “reframe” the focus of the story:
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— Lynn Henderson (@scotsecpcs) October 23, 2018
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.
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.
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:
I send my solidarity to women council workers in Glasgow who go on strike today to demand equal pay.
They are the carers, cleaners and caterers who are society's unsung heroes.
When they go on strike, it's our duty to support them. #GlasgowWomensStrike
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) October 23, 2018
But SNP MP for Glasgow South Stewart McDonald was quick to criticise Labour politicians tweeting support:
They wouldn’t be on strike if the then Labour run council paid them what they were rightfully owed and didn’t spend millions of pounds of council taxpayers money fighting against them. It has now fallen to @theSNP to sort this out and @SusaninLangside will get it done. https://t.co/An0ZXc8Hek
— Stewart McDonald MP (@StewartMcDonald) October 23, 2018
And Scottish Labour councillor for Rutherglen Central and North took to Twitter:
The Labour Party in Glasgow was wrong on Equal Pay. Full stop.
If we are going to build a better Scotland and a better Britain, we need to recognise that Labour have had a hand in some of the injustices that exist today.
— Martin Lennon? (@M4rtinLennon) October 23, 2018
Scottish Green Party co-convenor and Glasgow Regional MSP Patrick Harvie tweeted in support of the strike:
Last week @Allan4Govan and I met with workers and organisers of the #GlasgowWomensStrike and on Saturday #SGPconf voted overwhelmingly to back their long overdue demands. #equalpayglasgow pic.twitter.com/hOLk4GuA94
— Patrick Harvie ?? (@patrickharvie) October 23, 2018
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.
– Join us, so we can keep bringing you the news that matters.
– Tweet in support of the strike using #GlasgowWomensStrike
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