Around 8,000 workers in Glasgow have begun 48 hours of strike action calling for equal pay.
The strike marks one of the largest walkouts over equal pay for women since the introduction of the Equal Pay Act 1970.
Primary schools, nurseries, and care services are facing severe disruption as a result of the walkout by members of the trade unions Unison and the GMB.
Equal Pay for Glasgow City Council Workers
Credit: GMB Scotland
The industrial action is a response to the lack of progress in negotiations with Glasgow City Council regarding equal pay claims from thousands of women. Some of the claims in question go back over a decade.
In 2006, Glasgow City Council introduced the Workforce Pay and Benefits Deal, a pay and conditions scheme for workers.
However, the scheme led to workers in female-dominated roles, such as catering or cleaning, receiving up to £3.00 an hour less than those in male-dominated areas, such as refuse collection.
The scheme also included a payment protection arrangement for men who lost out on bonuses as a result of the changes. However, the same provision was not extended to women.
Campaigners also argue that the structure of the Workforce Pay and Benefits Deal discriminated against women workers. They point out that staff contracted for more than 37 hours qualified for extra payments, while women, who made up 70 per cent of the council workforce, generally worked fewer than 35 hours.
As a result, thousands of women have made equal pay claims against Glasgow City Council.
In December 2017, the Court of Sessions ruled in favour of employees being able to seek equal play claims from Glasgow City Council.
In January 2018, the SNP-led council began talks with unions to settle the dispute. However, after ten months of talks and meetings, workers have taken industrial action citing a lack of progress.
Low-Paid Women Workers Want to Pay Claims Settled
Members of GMB striking at Glasgow City Chambers Credit: GMB Scotland
Many of the women striking over the council’s failure to settle the equal pay dispute are in low-paid work. The women include school administration workers, learning support workers in schools, nursery workers, home carers, cleaners caterers, and other council workers.
UNISON Glasgow chair Mary Dawson said: “We have given the council ten months to make progress on addressing the historical discrimination suffered by these workers.
“However, the council has agreed nothing, offered nothing and all we have had are meetings about meetings and talks about talks. It’s time for some action.”
Glasgow City Council leader Sue Aitken told the BBC she believes the strike action is unnecessary.
“I’m not entirely sure why this strike is taking place. Negotiations have been continuing. We’ve made considerable progress in a number of areas.”
The dispute has now run for over ten years.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has expressed his support for the strikers, “I send my solidarity to women council workers in Glasgow who go on strike today to demand equal pay. They are the carers, cleaners and caterers who are society’s unsung heroes. When they go on strike, it’s our duty to support them.”
The Equal Pay Act, introduced in 1970, enshrined the right to equal pay between men and women. However it’s since been superseded by the Equality Act 2010, which now covers equal pay between men and women
I send my solidarity to women council workers in Glasgow who go on strike today to demand equal pay.
They are the carers, cleaners and caterers who are society's unsung heroes.
When they go on strike, it's our duty to support them. #GlasgowWomensStrike
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) October 23, 2018
Featured image: Strikers on the picket line at Kelvingrove Gallery, Glasgow
Credit: GMB Scotland