Council and union row stalls progress towards equal pay deal

Union reps say council officials are refusing to meet, while the council says unions are not engaging with the process.

Council and union row stalls progress towards equal pay deal SNS Group

Talks over equal pay in Glasgow have stalled amid a row between unions and the council.

Union reps say council officials are refusing to meet to negotiate a new pay scheme which does not discriminate against some, mainly female, workers.

A council spokesman said the unions are not engaging with the process and the Covid-19 pandemic has caused delays.

The union-led Glasgow Equal Pay Joint Claimant Group claims the outstanding equal pay liability is estimated to be £320m – rising by £100m each year the issue remains unresolved.

Glasgow City Council believes these figures have been “conjured from thin air”.

In 2019, the council agreed a settlement of more than £500m with nearly 16,000 current and former employees.

But the pay scheme remains and, until it is replaced, many female workers continue to be paid unfairly.

The GMB union says the failure to continue negotiations leaves the “discriminatory” scheme in place and delays the settlement of 18,000 equal pay claims.

Reps claim council officials indicated the completion of the new scheme would be delayed by ten months – but they fear it could be April 2023 before it is finished.

GMB Scotland secretary Gary Smith called the equal pay liability a “time bomb” for the city and urged council leader Susan Aitken to step in and end “chronic sex discrimination”.

He said: “The failure of officials to meet with the joint claimant group to progress the replacement of the discriminatory job evaluation scheme and settle these residual claims is deeply concerning.

“The aim was to complete the new job evaluation scheme now, at the very least it should be well down the road.

“We should be working towards the delivery of settling all outstanding equal play claims, but instead the liabilities are growing along with the burden on the city.”

He added: “Left unchallenged, not only is the council stalling on tackling discrimination and the delivery of justice, but with each passing day its ability to resolve this scandal on its own diminishes as the liability grows.”

Unison members have also been told the council leader has been asked to intervene after officials refused to meet.

The Glasgow branch told members that “mostly lower paid women” are “still being discriminated against each day”, the “final bill to settle will be many millions, and the longer it takes the more it will cost”.

A council spokesman said the “complex and time-consuming” task had needed to be “completely reworked” due to “public health measures that nobody predicted”.

“Nobody will be in the slightest bit surprised that the job evaluation process has been affected by the pandemic,” he said.

“However, the fact is that those already substantial challenges have been exacerbated at every turn by the refusal of trade unions to engage with a process that they have agreed and co-designed.”

He added: “It has always been understood that, having settled historic cases, there will be a further cost once a new pay scheme is implemented.

“However, the figures being quoted have been conjured from thin air.”

By local democracy reporter Drew Sandelands

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