Eight thousand Glaswegian workers are on strike on 23/24 October in protest at the continued failure of Glasgow city council to comply with a 2017 court ruling requiring it to pay retrospective compensation for past pay policy, which effectively discriminated against women workers.
Workers in council services traditionally staffed by women, like home care, were paid thousands of pounds less than those in more traditionally male jobs, like digging graves and collecting the bins. For years thousands of women employed by the council were excluded from bonus schemes enjoyed by male workers.
The court of session made it clear back in August 2017 that it was up to the council to prove that its pay policy complied with equality legislation, and concluded that the council had failed to come up with enough expert evidence to do so.
Yet fast forward to August 2018 and the new SNP leader of Glasgow city council, Susan Aitken, was still unable to offer even an estimate of the likely cost of equal pay settlements, dismissing suggestions of £500m or £1bn as “plucked out of thin air”, but unwilling herself to supply a figure – after a whole year of marking time in fruitless negotiations.
The workers have now correctly concluded that the only way to persuade the council to comply with a court ruling that has been sitting on the shelf gathering dust for a full year is to get organised and withdraw their labour.
The October strike is pulling out home carers, cleaners, caterers and others, united in the demand to be paid full compensation for all the years that this penny-pinching and divisive pay scam was in operation. They deserve the warmest support of all workers.
Clearly, pay equality is long overdue; not least because of the effects of austerity and the rise in the cost of living, which is making strike action a bread-and-butter issue for so many.
On that basis alone, communists give their unreserved support to hard-pressed working-class folk. It is incumbent upon workers, no matter what their political affiliations, to support one another when they are forced to into strike action to stand up for their rights to decent pay and conditions at work.
Whilst recognising this, it would be remiss if we failed to recognise the criticisms being made of this strike by SNP supporters and voters. The accusations made by many SNP supporters are that the strike has been organised as a thinly-veiled attack on the SNP-led Glasgow city council by two trade unions that are firmly in the pocket of the Labour party.
The Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) is no friend to either the SNP or the Labour party. However, it cannot be denied that both the GMB and Unison are slavish supporters of the Labour party, and the Labour party has repeatedly betrayed the interests of workers up and down the country throughout its history.
Regardless of the current leadership of the Labour party, which many believe to be acting with integrity, workers and their trade unions must be vigilant if they are to avoid being used as pawns in the political game. Strikes for higher wages should be waged by workers at every opportunity – whether they be directed against the SNP or against a future Labour government.
Speaking on BBC Scotland, Rhea Wolfson (GMB official and previous Labour party electoral candidate) said that the women workers “have suffered a decade of institutionalised discrimination”. What Wolfson failed to mention is that the Labour party was in charge of Glasgow city council for nine years of that decade.
In fact, up until last year, when the SNP was elected, Glasgow has always been held by Labour.
The GMB continues to be a big financial backer of the Labour party. It gave £62,000 in just one week in 2017 to Labour’s election campaign, and in the first quarter of 2018 it is reported to have donated £318,673.
Thats £318,673 of members’ money that the leadership has given over to a party that for ten years failed to make good the disgraceful pay inequality that has led to today’s action.
Victory to the Glasgow strikers!