Glasgow council equal pay dispute: What is the dispute about and when could strikes happen?

Glasgow City Council staff are due to go on strike later this month, after voting in favour of industrial action.

It is just the latest episode in a long-running drama over equal pay. Those who were voted for strike action were GMB members - Unite members are due to vote on the issue in March.

But why are staff striking, when will the strikes happen, and how long will this problem last?

What is the problem?

Some jobs at Glasgow City Council - predominately held by women - were being paid less per hour than roles that tended to be held by men, despite being in the same pay grade.

GMB staff on strike in another dispute.GMB staff on strike in another dispute.
GMB staff on strike in another dispute.

In 2017, courts ruled that the council’s payment protection scheme and the workforce pay and benefits review discriminated against women.

A settlement, worth over £500m, was agreed with around 16,000 current and former council employees in 2019, but many staff are still paid unfairly.

That deal covered pay claims up to March 31, 2018 and talks have been ongoing over more recent claims, as well as the roll out of a new pay and grading scheme.

It is estimated that it could take until April 2024 to put the pay and grading system in place — and unions claim the cost, along with 5000 new claims, could run into hundreds of millions of pounds.

There are disputes over the length of time it could take for the new system to be introduced - which has been delayed because of Covid-19 - the wait for equal pay now, and complaints that the council is trying to renege on parts of the 2019 deal.

When could strikes happen?

Today (Wednesday) GMB announced that staff affected by equal pay across a raft of Glasgow City Council services voted to support strikes, over what it calls the local authority’s failure to resolve outstanding equal pay settlements and replace its “discriminatory” pay and grading system.

In total, 97.8 per cent of ballots returned from GMB members in services including Glasgow Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP), school cleaning and catering, and parking services, passed the statutory legal threshold for industrial action ballots in public services.

The result could mean a fresh wave of equal pay strikes affecting these services from as early as the end of March, with disruption also possible in the run-up to the local authority elections at the beginning of May.

Meanwhile, Unite is also pushing ahead with its own ballot. It says that despite progress being made for around 5000 claimants who have had no settlement for the period up to March 2018, around 18,000 claimants are still waiting for a settlement for the period after March 2018.

Their ballot is due to end on March 14, which could see clerical and administrative workers, caterers, home carers, cleaners, janitors, car park attendants and education services workers also going on strike at the end of March.

How has the council responded?

Responding to news about the industrial strike ballot, a council spokesman said: “We are following the process agreed with unions at the time of the 2019 deal.

“We have made it clear we are ready to make offers on new claims – and are committed to discussing the gap period thereafter.”