St. Andrew’s Day Blogs (part 3)

In this series of guest blogs, we asked the leaders of the main political parties in Scotland to share their thoughts ahead of the annual St.Andrew’s Day Anti-Racism March & Rally which takes place this Saturday. Next up is Willie Rennie MSP, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats.


The timing of this march and rally isn’t incidental. St Andrew himself is international. Treasured here and the inspiration behind the saltire flag, but also the patron saint of Greece, Russia, Romania and Barbados. His relics have been scattered as far as Istanbul, Amalfi and Warsaw and he’s a famed figure in both Maltese and Georgian history. You might not have envisioned ties between Bridgetown and Buchan but this biblical figure has achieved just that.

St Andrew’s colourful life and the adventure his bones were taken on after his death teach us a fair few lessons about the close connections and overlaps we have with people around the world. The shared history, the similarities. That’s something we should all keep in mind.

Scotland is a warm, welcoming and embracing place. But let’s not kid ourselves that it is free of hatred and bigotry.

This summer the Guru Nanak Gurdwara Sikh temple and a methodist church in Edinburgh were attacked. In May, Dunfermline Central Mosque was the target of a hateful act. Scotland still has a way to go with acceptance and tolerance. The STUC’s annual march is a chance for the progressive majority among us to show their unity in the face of persistent prejudice.

None of us can afford to be lax when racism or injustice continues to rear its head in the 21st century. We have a duty to march up the Royal Mile to protest Donald Trump’s visit, to condemn Aung San Suu Kyi and revoke her honours for the irresponsible leadership she’s shown in the face of Myanmar’s persecution of the Rohingya people, and to highlight the ongoing plight of the Windrush generation and Chagossian refugees.

The Liberal Democrats tirelessly make the positive case for immigration. We’re defenders of human rights and stand in resolute opposition to any attempt to withdraw the UK from the European Convention. We’re brimming with ideas about how to improve diversity, care for and welcome refugees, tackle modern slavery and improve the lives of people living around the world through international development and standing up for liberal values.

If we go full circle back to St Andrew, it’s worth noting he is also the patron saint of fishmongers, singers, gout sufferers and those with sore throats. It seems he has a knack for bringing together the disparate and detached. This St Andrew’s day when the crowds  march against racism in Glasgow we should each take a leaf out of Jo Cox’s book and reflect on what unites us, rather than what divides us.


Read part 1: Patrick Harvie MSP, leader of the Scottish Green Party

Read part 2: Ruth Davidson MSP, leader of the Scottish Conservative Party

Join us on Saturday at the biggest annual anti-racism event in Scotland: Find out more and let us know you are coming along here. 

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St. Andrew’s Day Blogs (part 2)

In this series of guest blogs, we asked the leaders of the main political parties in Scotland to share their thoughts ahead of the annual St.Andrew’s Day Anti-Racism March & Rally which takes place this Saturday. Next up is Ruth Davidson MSP, leader of the Scottish Conservative Party.


All of us in Scotland are rightly proud of our reputation as an open, tolerant and welcoming society – one that values all people, no matter their colour, creed, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

Yet, while we have come a long way in tackling sectarianism and rooting out racist abuse, there is still much to be done.

It’s a hard truth, but to our collective shame, we still have pockets of intolerance in Scotland.

Our response must be to challenge these views directly — be clear that our communities are enriched by those who have chosen to make this country their home; that we are better for our acceptance of different faiths and the protections we afford to all.

And we must encourage others to follow our lead.

Next year, we begin the process of leaving the European Union. While I campaigned passionately to Remain – and understand the strength of feeling Brexit provokes – I recognise the result and that it must be respected.

But this does not mean that UK is about to turn its back on the world or that we will stop championing freedom and justice. Quite the opposite.

We have a proud history of standing up for the oppressed and supporting an international order that upholds human rights and the rule of law.

Brexit will not change this. Nor will it stop us from continuing humanitarian missions around the world or our international development work which, over the last few years, has supported over 11 million children in school, helped more than 60 million people get access to clean water and saved millions of girls from child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation.

So despite the flux, we must continue to act to ensure that cultural and racial diversity is seen as one of our nation’s great strengths. For this diversity is something which makes Scotland such an incredible place to live, work and call home.

The STUC has long shown an admirable commitment to challenging racism in all its forms and the Scottish Conservatives are proud to stand with you. Together, we will continue to defend the values we share.


You can read part 1: Patrick Harvie MSP, leader of the Scottish Green Party here.

Join us on Saturday at the biggest annual anti-racism event in Scotland: Find out more and let us know you are coming along here. 

St. Andrew’s Day Blogs (part 1)

In this series of guest blogs, we ask the leaders of the main political parties in Scotland to share their thoughts ahead of the annual St.Andrew’s Day Anti-Racism March & Rally which takes place this Saturday. First up is Patrick Harvie MSP, co-convener of the Scottish Green Party.


This year’s St Andrews Day anti-racism rally comes at a time when the normalisation of far right views is a threat to us all.

We have just seen US midterm elections plumb new depths in overtly racist and homophobic campaigning. Far right parties have made unprecedented gains in elections across Europe. Closer to home, the BBC has defended giving a platform to Steve Bannon at its NewsXchange event in Edinburgh.

We should be in no doubt that providing an audience for extremist views enables their cause and emboldens to those seek to commit or justify horrific acts, such as the recent Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.

At our annual conference in Glasgow last month, Scottish Greens overwhelmingly backed a new policy motion on challenging the far right.

Developed by members, our policy seeks both to directly challenge the politics of hate and tackle the conditions that allow it to grow. That means reversing the economic and social inequalities that the far right manipulate to further their aims.

In this context, we must also recognise the starkest warnings yet of the risk of climate breakdown, which will have a huge impact as a multiplier of extremism unless we change course urgently and radically.

We call for action at every level, from better legal protections and more comprehensive policing of far right activity, to intervention in the education system, through local communities and online.

We must also call-out those who use a pretence of free speech while shutting down others’ freedoms and spreading hate. Freedom of speech and association are cornerstones of our democracy but they cannot be allowed to become the means by which the far right destroy that democracy.

We can be proud of Scotland’s story of resistance. We should applaud the First Minister for refusing to take part in the NewsXchange event. We should reflect on how we collectively rebuffed the advances of UKIP and how the articulation of a positive, inclusive vision for Scotland – which I believe the Greens have contributed to – followed through to a resounding Remain vote.

And we should celebrate that, this summer, thousands of people took to the streets to protest the visit of Donald Trump, while others mobilised to act as a human shield against asylum seeker evictions proposed by Serco as part of the UK Government’s Hostile Environment agenda.

But we cannot afford any complacency in the face of a resurgent far right and the continuation of austerity.

That is why as Greens we’ll be proud to join other progressive forces at this year’s St Andrews Day rally, sending a clear message to the far-right that we will not allow their hate to spread and showing solidarity with our fellow citizens at home and around the world.


 

Join us on Saturday at the biggest annual anti-racism event in Scotland: Find out more and let us know you are coming along here. 

Are chief executives overpaid?

We all know that the answer is a resounding ‘Yes’. Bob Wylie says a new book gives trades unionists stonewall arguments for our case.

Are chief executives overpaid is a good question. We can start with the house builder Persimmon. A couple of years ago the government set up the “Help to Buy” scheme to assist first-time buyers and boost house building across the UK. A mini-boom in building followed.

Last year it became clear that the chief executive of Persimmon, one Jeffrey Fairburn, was due to trouser £120m as a result of the bonus scheme he and his boardroom pals had set up following the “Help to Buy” offer. The top 100 managers at Persimmon will share a £300m pot, in addition to Jeffrey’s jackpot.

Fairburn has relented, to a degree, and is now only going to cash in £75m over 2018 and 2019. Given all this is a result of taxpayers footing the bill for house buying this amounts to grand-scale looting of the state in a style that would make a Russian Oligarch blush.

According to Shelter, Fairburn’s pay off is enough to build a new house for every homeless person in York where Persimmon’s HQ is based. But as any trade unionist knows Persimmon is only one of the latest fat cat scandals to escape from the balance sheets funding the bonanza for Britain’s chief executives.

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On average their pay packages are now so generous that they only need to turn for work for three or four days and they’ll have put as much in the bank as the ordinary worker takes home in a year. The average pay of a British CEO is now a bundle that makes up more than £5m. That makes their take home ratio 129-1 when compared to that of the average worker.

These facts all come from a new book, just published, titled “Are chief executives overpaid?”. It’s written by Deborah Hargreaves, one time business editor of the Guardian. It is a bombshell of a book which explodes all the myths about executive pay and why these levels of moolah are justified.

What about the one that if we don’t stuff the bosses mouths with gold, our top people will up sticks and go elsewhere to exercise their extraordinary talents? Hargreaves argues with facts from the Fortune Global 500 companies that out of 489 appointments made in these companies, in recent times, only 4 chief executives were recruited from an overseas company. So having to pay chief executives top dollar to guard against losing them to international markets is tosh.

Hargreaves is excellent on explaining how we got here and has a host of policy offers including higher corporate taxes, mandatory workers on the board, binding shareholders voting on executive pay, even binding workforce votes on executive pay. And mandatory maximum pay ratios between the bosses and workers in companies bidding for multi-million Government contracts.

Mind you we have been arguing for these policies for years. The central issue is that there is a direct correlation between the decline of the power of the unions in the UK and the outrageous rise and rise of chief executives’ pay. So maybe the most important thing to be done, without waiting for political ‘manna from heaven’, is to build the power of the unions again. Relentlessly.

 Deborah Hargreaves “Are Chief Executives Overpaid?” (Politi) October 2018 £9.99

Former BBC journalist, Bob Wylie, is currently writing a book on the Carillion scandal.

 

 

Solidarity with the Equal Pay Strikers!

All eyes were on Glasgow this week and we have been inundated with messages of solidarity for the Equal Pay Strikers from across the globe. In this blog post we share just a selection of the messages we have received: 

“Glasgow women are the backbone of the council and the city cannot function without them. The strength and unity these women have shown is inspirational. Firefighters will be standing in solidarity with you today, tomorrow and for however long it takes for this injustice to be resolved. Keep strong and united sisters.”

Denise Christie, Scottish Secretary, Fire Brigades Union

“On behalf of the TSSA I am sending our solidarity and support for all our sisters in Unison and GMB in their fight for Equal Pay. And I congratulate both unions for their extended fight with the Glasgow Council over the last 12 years. The fight for fairness and equality of pay is central to the union movement. Unequal and unfair pay, which so often affects women more than men, is a scourge that should have been wiped out years ago and I have no doubt that it will be wiped out in Glasgow Council because of this action. Solidarity sisters!”

Manuel Cortes, General Secretary, TSSA

The EIS sends its solidarity to all Unison and GMB members involved in Equal Pay strikes in Glasgow on the 23 and 24th of October. We support your campaign and we believe that it is outrageous that women still need to take industrial action in order to achieve equal pay for equal work for women. We wish you well with your action and hope that you are successful in your campaign – which is in the vanguard of defending women’s rights at work.”

Larry Flanagan, General Secretary, Educational Institute of Scotland

“Our members believe that it is only right that workers should be paid for the job that they do and that there should be no discrimination or disparity in pay on the basis of gender, as has been the case for many years.

“We hope to continue working with UNISON and GMB who represent the striking workers to ensure that older people are cared for in the manner they deserve and by workers who are being paid fairly and honestly for the work that they do.”

Eleanor McKenzie, Scottish Pensioners Forum

“Women’s work is undervalued and underpaid. Without the vital roles undertaken by our sisters, communities would grind to a halt.

“Women should not have to undertake long legal battles for what is rightfully theirs. For years they have been forced to endure more work for less pay. We stand with all those women who fight to have their voices heard.”

Agnes Tolmie, Scottish Women’s Convention

“Solidarity with all my sisters on strike for equal pay.

“Nothing can describe what I felt when I saw the coverage on the news of how many women were on the march. Inspired and proud to be a woman.

“Women are the backbone of our society they deserve equal pay and are right to demand equal pay.”

Andi Fox, TSSA member

“On behalf of UNISON Cymru Wales members, we send our warmest best wishes and solidarity to those UNISON members on strike at Glasgow City council. It is simply unacceptable in 2018 for work undertaken by women to be valued less than work done by a man. Your fight for equality is our fight and your principled stand is inspiring. No to sex discrimination! Unity is strength!”

Stephanie Thomas, UNISON Cymru Wales Regional Secretary

Peter Crews, Regional Convenor

 

“Berwick upon Tweed and District Trades Union Council sends solidarity to the women strikers in Glasgow. We wish them success in winning their demand for equal pay.”

Phil Thompson, Berwick Trades Union Council

Glasgow women’s strike

We are all Rosa's daughters...

Today I marched with 8,000 striking women workers through thexstreets of Glasgow.

I offered solidarity onbehalf of the Scottish Trade Union Congress, and the hundreds of thousands of workers in this movement that are trade union members in Scotland.

I am so very, very proud of the women workers of Glasgow City, standing up for what is rightfully theirs.… and for what rightfully belongs to all women workers – equal pay.

The workers on strike cook, clean and care for our children and our elderly. They look after those most important to us. So it is high time their important work was recognised by awarding them the equal pay they have long been denied.

I waa honoured to join the women singing and dancing in George Square

I stand with them as the daughter of a strong working class woman.

My Mum, like many woman did loads of different…

View original post 299 more words

Busting The Myths Around Glasgow Equal Pay Strikes

As Glasgow gears up for what will be the biggest withdrawal of labour for equal pay in the UK since the 1960s, UNISON Scotland have provided some FACTS to counter the MYTHS that are doing the rounds. 


MYTH:  The unions agreed to the Glasgow pay system but are now suing against their own agreement.

FACT:  UNISON’s local branch and equality team vetoed the Workforce Pay and Benefits  Review (WPBR). The tribunal decision records that the unions walked out on the job evaluation process, took a grievance and formally complained to the council  leader. The council admitted in the litigation that the jobs were graded by managers and consultants alone. In no sense is WPBR a union scheme.

“Nothing agreed, nothing offered, nothing proposed.

We demand real negotiations.”

The council approved WPBR on 16th October 2006. The committee report reflects the fact there was no agreement. Instead the report recommends imposing WPBR and contemplates doing so by mass dismissals. Under a Labour majority,  the report was approved. Workers got three chances to accept WPBR over the winter of 2006/07. Then it was imposed.

All this is “on the record”. In 12 years of argument over WPBR, including 14 disputes, 10 strikes and over 12,000 legal claims, no council official has ever said this was a union approved scheme. Anyone saying that now is making mischief.


MYTH: If the unions had employed their industrial muscle on this long before now we wouldn’t be in this position.

FACT:  No current Scottish pay system has faced more disputes and legal conflict than WPBR. There have been 14 separate WPBR disputes in 11 years and 10 strikes.

“Start looking at settlement proposals so negotiations can finally start.

All we have had for nine months are talks about talks.”

Nearly 6,000 workers have been balloted in WPBR disputes and 3,500 have taken strike action. In parallel with the strikes there are 12,500 legal claims, many of which date back to 2008. Are the council honestly saying we could or should have been MORE aggressive?

Militancy is not the issue. None of this conflict would have been necessary if the council had not suppressed the findings of the statutory investigation by the Equality & Human Rights Commission in 2010.

In 2010 the EHRC conducted a statutory investigation of WPBR and told the council it was discriminatory. That report was suppressed. In 2018 Councillor Aitken correctly ordered the release of the secret report. Although that instruction has not been met in full we know enough from the material released to say that discrimination should have ended long before now.

What was needed to resolve this dispute in 2010 was not greater union militancy or legal wizardry, but simply the regular transparency of a council meeting. The officials were able to block and suppress the EHRC until 2018 because councillors never met to discuss equal pay issues between 2006 and 2018. Councillor Aitken exposed the fact that all Glasgow councillors failed, and failed badly. That is something we agree on. The big questions are simple – who knew what about the EHRC, when did they know, and what did they do? How did they silence a statutory agency that held expert evidence of discrimination at the council?


MYTH: The reasons for the strike do not justify strike action.

FACT: The reason for the strike is clear – the claimants have lost faith in the willingness of senior officials to deliver Councillors Aitken’s instructions. In December 2017, the parties agreed to adopt a joint timetable with clear stages or milestones. The workers were already low on confidence in March 2018 when they told Anne Robinson’s BBC documentary that they were going to the union to demand a strike.

“The women know the reason for the dispute because it was the women who called the strike.”

In May, a consultative ballot extracted a council commitment to adequate funding, a new joint timetable with milestones and a deadline of Christmas. In August the council missed their milestones, tore up the timetable and told the unions there would be no money until April 2019. We don’t know if the officials had councillor approval for the actions that triggered the strike vote. We shared that information openly with the members, as a trade union should, and the reaction was as clear as it was predictable. The call for strike action was overwhelming. This is a member led campaign and the members are angry. Very angry.


MYTH: The women don’t know why they are striking because the union misinformed them.

FACT: The council get irritated when we advise them how to address equality issues but it has to be said that publicly patronising powerful women who have high value legal claims is a high risk strategy. The members meet at least once a month to plan and execute their campaign. The members went to the Court of Session and there were over 30 claimants at the recent tribunal hearing. They know how the scheme was designed, they know about the EHRC cover up, they know the detail of the 42 point settlement plan and they know the council tore it up. They have battled through 14 disputes over 11 years and they know this is the conclusion of a long slow battle. The women know the reason for the dispute because it was the women who called the strike. It’s that simple.


MYTH: The unions know that council officers are carrying out the instructions of the council leader.

FACT: Cllr Aitken told the officials to end the EHRC cover-up and produce the report in full. In fact she told them three times. But we are still waiting for the truth behind the cover up. Councillor Aitken asked for a time table with milestones and dispute resolution. The officials missed the milestones, tore up the timetable and refused to go to mediation before 2019. Was that what the officials were instructed to do? We genuinely don’t think so.


MYTH: Any delay in making payments is due to the strike, not the actions of the council.

FACT: The claimants’ representatives have been available to talk, without condition, since December 2017. It was the council who left the talks in response to the strike notice. The strike does not delay settlement. What delays settlement is the council’s attitude to the strike – their decision to walk away shows a lack of respect for low paid women. Every dispute is settled by discussion. The only way forward is to talk.


MYTH: The unions escalated the campaign when the SNP defeated Labour in 2017

FACT: With 6000 workers in 14 disputes, 10 strikes and 8,000 legal claims the campaign was very assertive against the Labour administration. What escalated the scale and significance of the campaign even further was the Court of Session decision in August 2017. Labour presided over the WPBR years and the SNP administration has set a course towards equality. Accepting the Court of Session ruling and removing WPBR were strong decisions that have received credit from the workforce and their representatives. But the unions are clear – we are in dispute with the employer, not the elected members. Party politics is irrelevant.


MYTH: The unions are covering their backs for their discrimination over the last 12 years

FACT: This briefing sets out our actions. We vetoed WPBR before it was adopted. We commissioned the leading UK expert to analyse its impact after it was imposed and went straight to mass litigation. Every member received advice and we encouraged them to join the campaign. Although we lost the tribunal and the first appeal we kept fighting. In parallel with the litigation we organised Cordia workers against the discrimination within the ALEO policy and Cordia’s daily practices. We closed Cordia down and took the workers home to equality within the council. Working with Action4Equality we had to change the law of equal pay to bring equality to Glasgow. UNISON organised the mass participation of low paid women and removed the discrimination of tribunal fees to restore access to justice for all – in Glasgow and across the UK. We succeeded where the EHRC failed. This is not “union back-covering”. This is pay equality & pay justice.