Glasgow City Council calling workers’ strike ‘illegal’ is a ‘smear on low paid workers’

George Square Glasgow
Peadar O'Cearnaigh

In order to maintain safe working practices during coronavirus (Covid-19), cleaning staff at Glasgow City Council worked reduced hours. Then, when the council decided they should return to normal working hours, staff called for a meeting with management. However, staff representatives claim management refused this request, so staff “walked out in sheer frustration”.

That’s why cleaning staff staged a protest in George Square on 7 September. Their union, GMB Scotland, said it was the wrong time to return to full-time work as safety measures must get priority.

A “smear” on workplace relations

This industrial action doesn’t come completely out of the blue. Because GMB Scotland claims there are outstanding pre-coronavirus workplace problems. It says that, as a result of cuts to the council’s budget and services, staff lack necessary resources.

GMB claimed:

the issues facing the service pre-covid remain unchallenged by the council.

Glasgow has a waste crisis after a decade of cuts to the city’s budget and its services and we cannot expect to tackle this without meaningful investment. We need more resources.

Relations between cleaning staff and the council then soured when Glasgow City Council posted an online notice declaring their actions as “illegal”.

A GMB Scotland spokesperson told Glasgow Times:

Earlier this week we called for co-operation, safety and investment in the service, so it’s disappointing to see the council smear low-paid key workers on social media just 48 hours later.

It was reported that the tweet was deleted, yet on 13 September the claim was still on the council’s website.

A council spokesperson told the Glasgow Times:

The message was being widely misrepresented as the view of various councillors, so we chose to delete it. This is an operational matter, dealt with by officials.

Lockdown measures in Scotland

The Scottish government had plans to ease lockdown restrictions this month. Some of these measures have now been paused until at least 5 October while others have been tightened. But Glasgow City Council still wanted its cleaning staff to return to full-time work hours.

A GMB Scotland spokesperson told the Glasgow Times:

The safety and well-being of our key workers and their families must be the priority here.

It’s not safe for the council to phase-out coronavirus lockdown working arrangements at time when there is a resurgence of the virus in the city.

It would be more far [sic] sensible to maintain the lockdown working arrangements for the time being and to have a proper consultation with service management about what the future will look like and how we can best deliver services in a safe and efficient manner.

Safe environment

As reported by The Canary on 12 September, NHS staff went on strike for better pay. They demanded:

stop clapping, start paying

And as cleaning staff are also frontline staff, they would also need support to carry out their jobs.

A spokesperson for the council said:

Agreement was reached with senior GMB officials on Tuesday for staff to return to work on Wednesday [9 September].

There was also agreement with the GMB over a phased return to normal contracted hours over the next six weeks.

The Canary contacted Glasgow City Council and GMB Scotland for further comment but neither responded by the time of publication.

Featured image via Flickr – Paul Robertson

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  • Show Comments
    1. I always support working people in their quest for better pay and conditions but the GMB (and other public sector unions) and the Labour Party in Glasgow have a shameful recent record with regard to female workers in the city who were denied equal pay for more than a decade by appalling collusion between the unions and local Labour councillors. The GMB, in particular, in a few senior officers are hostile to independence for Scotland and have collaborated with Tory funders and supporters in attacking the Scottish Government with regard to PPE in care homes.

      As a Glasgow resident I am appreciative of the efforts of the cleansing crews for their service during the lockdown period and for the way in which they have increased services as the lockdown has been eased. As a community council member I know the efforts made by Councillors of all parties to collaborate in restoring services towards normal levels.

      The Council had to inform residents why bins in some areas were not uplifted. This is what citizens expect. As ever the abject Scottish Labour party with cronies in the unions make cavilling oppositionist statements to mislead the public. Shame on ‘The Canary’ for repeating this mendacious propaganda.

    2. Alasdair MacDonald is correct. This ‘dispute’ has nothing to do with worker’s conditions.
      Public service trade union leaders in Scotland want to disrupt the SNP as much as they possibly can. They hate the SNP. Why? For taking away their career prospects. Not so long ago the natural career progression for a trade union leader was from – activist – to – full time trade union rep – to – politician. That cushy number is gone now and they don’t like the SNP for taking it away.
      The trade union movement in Scotland has a toxic and bitter relationship with the Scottish government. Because of it, it works against it the interests of trade union members.
      The Canary should spend a wee bit of time reading up on the GMB and its collusion with Labour run GCC to keep its women members on lower pay compared to its male members. It might surprise you what trade unionism looks like north of the border. GMB female members have died being owed 10s of thousands of pounds thanks to their union.

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