Wednesday, 1 November 2017


Women workers are battling for equality at work on several fronts.

A succession of protest demos have been staged by members of Unison and GMB unions at Glasgow city council, demanding immediate action on Pay Justice by the new SNP council. 

Women working for the council and its arms-length offshoots (ALEOs) have fought for equal pay for equal work for the past 12 years. They are demanding an end to the outrageous pay gap, mostly derived from some occupations being treated as 'women's work' - such as homecare, cleaning, administration, schools, libraries and catering. With this gendered branding comes lower grades and lower pay.

Decade of Delay 

A Single Status Agreement was signed between Scottish councils and unions about 11 years ago, supposedly guaranteeing an end to this discrimination, by unifying grades for equal skills, regardless of gender.
Disgracefully, over a decade of union struggle has been required to force councils to implement this. 

Many workers due compensation have since died, or moved out of jobs with the council, as the lawyers rake in fees from legal wrangling by councils. 

There are still over 27,000 Scottish council workers with unresolved claims for equal pay, and compensation for historic daylight robbery. The outstanding bill is estimated to be £750million. 90% of the workers involved are women.
Glasgow city council makes up a huge share of this pay gap: 11,000 workers still owed a total of about £500million! 
The previous Labour council scandalously dragged its feet, dodged paying up, using countless legal delaying tactics. 

Labour - now SNP - Delaying Tactics

In last May's council elections, the SNP made a big play of their promises to immediately implement equal pay, and won considerable voters' support through this. 

The Unison and GMB demos have been demanding 'No Delay, Equal Pay', now the SNP have been in charge a clear six months. 

Alarmingly, after their manifesto promises to the contrary, the SNP council has still not taken any concrete steps to speed up payment of this scandalous debt to workers. In fact, the one and only step so far by the SNP administration has been to seek 'leave to appeal' against the Supreme Court ruling in favour of equal pay settlements, in the case pursued by Unison on behalf of their 6,000 members amongst the 11,000 city council and ALEOs staff involved. Different political party, more delaying tactics!

Some of the key messages from the women leading the lobbies of the council recently are that equal pay should mean equalizing upwards, not downwards - raising the pay of women-dominated jobs, not cutting the pay of male-dominated sectors. 

Likewise, that equal pay should not be funded out of job losses or cuts to services - including to the (often vulnerable) clients many of them provide lifeline services to. 

Demand No Cuts Budgets 

This raises the issue consistently fought for by the SSP: the demand that both the Scottish government and all 32 local councils should refuse to pass on funding cuts issued by Westminster or Holyrood. To instead set No Cuts Budgets and join workers and communities in a massive campaign to win back some of the £billions stolen off Scotland and local communities by successive central governments, to fund equal pay, expanded services, and job security. 

March of the Mummies

Meantime, on Halloween, a set of women workers used a humorous means to deliver a deadly serious message. The March of the Mummies, in several UK cities including Glasgow, saw women marching in bloody bandages like the 'walking dead' version of mummies, demanding an end to the discrimination and mistreatment at work suffered by pregnant women and new mothers. 

The 2015 Report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission discovered one in nine new mothers said they had been forced out of their job due to pregnancy; an appalling total of 54,000 a year. 
An astonishing 77% of working mothers reported negative or discriminatory treatment by their employers. 
A full 40% of employers had the gall to admit they would avoid hiring a woman of childbearing age. All this in the 21st century!

Pregnant then Screwed 

The March of the Mummies was organised by campaign group 'Pregnant then Screwed', which helps women tell their stories of pregnancy and maternity discrimination, and campaigns for a package of measures currently being pushed as an Early Day Motion at Westminster. 

These demands include extension of the time limit for raising Employment Tribunal discrimination cases from 3 months to at least 6 months. A demand entirely justified by the fact only 1% of women facing such discrimination have pursued Tribunal cases - in part, no doubt, because 80% of women in a survey by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists admitted to having had at least one mental health episode during or immediately after pregnancy.   

The campaigners are also demanding 6 weeks paternity leave for Dads, on 90% salary; a requirement that employers report how many Flexible Working requests were made and how many granted; extension of statutory shared parental pay to the self-employed; and state subsidies for childcare from the age of 6 months, instead of the current 3 years. 

SSP Demand Equality

The SSP has a proud record of demanding and campaigning for equal pay for women; at least 12 months' maternity and one month's paternity leave, on 100% of pay; and a massive investment in free pre-school nurseries and workplace crèches. 

The trade unions should take up these issues vigorously, and demand changes to the feeble employment laws that guarantee the right to apply for flexible working, but with absolutely no guarantee of getting it, when employers merely have to say 'No' on the flimsiest grounds of 'business needs'. 

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