Glasgow’s striking women and the Labour Party

Today has seen the first of a two-day strike by women employed by Glasgow City council (GCC) in regards a very long dispute going back to 2006. Back then, the Labour run council implemented the Workforce Pay and Benefit Review (WPBR), though it quickly became apparent women (and in the vast majority of cases it was women, men in similar roles had no issues) were being paid up to £3 p/h less than their male counterparts. What then follows is a story of low-paid workers, mainly female, being advised horribly by unions and attacked by the then Labour run GCC. Fairly recently it became clear just how badly the women suffered and just how the Labour run GCC spent over £2.5 million fighting the women’s case.

In this time the GMB were advising the women, well, badly, but one heard not a peep from other unions or the Labour Party, both pre and post Jeremy Corbyn til May 2017. Two things happened; one is that Labour lost control of GCC for the first time in half a century and secondly before the women won their long fought court case and the incoming SNP run administration promised to settle the case. Negotiations started but earlier this year the GMB promised to strike so we’re here today.

The more astute of you may think ”hang on, why didn’t the GMB go on strike in the 11 years when Labour ran Glasgow?” and that is indeed a reasonable question and can be explained by the symbiotic relationship of both. In fact current Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard was a GMB official during part of this time, and the self-appointed leader of the strike, Rhea Wolfson, is a Labour candidate in the next election. Once you ask that question and discover other councils in Scotland have similar issues, but as they’re Labour run, there’s no threat of striking, then one has to conclude this is a political act that doesn’t have the women’s concerns at the heart of it.

Here for example is a Tweet from Carol Fox, who has been a lawyer representing the women.

Here’s an example of the ‘staggering hypocrisy’ in full gaslighting flow.

Now it is true the SNP led council need to up their game. Their handling of the aftermath of the Mack fire has been, on the whole, fucking dreadful (I live not far from the area affected and can testify as to how bad an aftermath it has been first hand) and their general level of communication is terrible but as this nicely balanced Scotsman article by Dani Garavelli makes clear that for all the faults of the current GCC administration, we can’t forget that a male dominated GMB and the Labour Party got us into this mess in the first place so some humility, and even an apology is forthcoming.

Today has seen Labour indulge in a campaign of stunning political hypocrisy mixed with opportunism as figures who stood against the women now Tweet furiously in favour, and some MP’s wade into the debate in the most cack-handed, tone deaf way.

You read the above Tweet right but in the midst of all this gaslighting there comes honesty from at least one person in Labour.

Realistically, this is probably what will happen as the estimated bill to settle is between £500 million and a billion. GCC can’t afford this without bankrupting Glasgow, and the Scottish Government would have to step in to mitigate this which means because the SG works on a restricted budget, other services in Scotland would be cut which means Labour run with the ‘SNP austerity line’ they’ve decided is their only real contribution to Scottish politics in the age of Brexit.

In effect, what could have been a day where the women’s 12 year old fight (and remember, some of the original women have passed on now) could have finally hit a point where all sides worked together for resolution. The current council could have been more open, and Labour rather than gaslight, lie and bullshit could have been contrite, even apologising and offering sensible solutions. Union leaders on 6-figure salaries who ensured men were paid more because that’s how it always has been could have apologised and we could try to come to a sensible outcome where the women get their backpay (the current council have binned the old pay scheme and employees are all now equally paid) but no, we’ve seen an extraordinary day where the divide has been ripped open.

What can we draw from the day? We should show solidarity with the women. There’s no doubt with that after the contempt these working class women were shown by the then Labour run council.. We should however question the GMB as to what exactly their motives are now after over a decade of, at the very least, not advising the women correctly, and for Labour they need to answer why they fought the women so hard for 11 years and also, what happened to people’s council tax because we’ve got buildings declared unsafe in what seems now like a policy to let some of Glasgow’s buildings fall into ruin.

I’d personally like an inquiry into just exactly went on in the City Chambers for decades and why women are forced to take less than their male counterparts and large parts of the city are left to rot and now we’re having to clean up this mess. That however would uncover some dirty little secrets that some of those gloating today would not like aired in public but realistically this isn’t going to be over til those responsible are contrite and that includes the Labour Party as a whole.

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