POLITICS
23/10/2018 12:20 BST | Updated 23/10/2018 12:35 BST

Glasgow Strike: Here's Why Thousands Of Council Workers Are Taking Action

Around 8,000 council workers have downed tools for two days.

The Guardian
Around 8,000 Glasgow City Council workers have gone on strike in a row over equal pay 

Glasgow is set to be brought “to a standstill” as thousands of women down tools on Tuesday and Wednesday over a decade-long row about pay.

In what is believed to be the biggest strike of its kind, around 8,000 Glasgow City Council workers have walked out for 48 hours to “fight for the wages they deserve”.

But what exactly is the strike about and why does it matter?

Who Is Striking And Why?

Thousands of Unison and GMB members employed by Glasgow council have gone on strike in the midst of an ongoing row about equal pay.

According to campaigners, a pay scheme introduced by Glasgow City Council in 2006 unfairly favoured men, seeing workers in female-dominated roles like cleaning and catering paid up to £3-an-hour less than those employed in areas typically staffed by men, such as refuse collection.

Some women are said to have been paid up to £4,000 a year less than male counterparts, despite working in similarly-graded jobs.

In May 2017, Scotland’s Court of Session ruled that Glasgow City Council’s scheme had discriminated against female workers, with the council subsequently agreeing to settle thousands of equal pay claims and introduce a new pay system. 

But unions said that, despite more than 20 meetings being held over the past 10 months in a bid to pave the way for payouts, little progress had been made to negotiate a settlement for “past injustice”. As a result, the current 48 hour action was announced earlier this month.

“The voice of Glasgow’s working women will be heard around the world,” said GMB Scotland organiser Rhea Wolfson. “After decades of rampant sex discrimination they will tell their employer, ‘Stop the delays. We want justice.’”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn took to Twitter on Tuesday to send his solidarity to the female carers, cleaners and caterers going on strike in Glasgow, calling them “society’s unsung heroes”. 

How Will It Affect Glasgow?

The strike is expected to have a major impact on the city, with council having already announced that all primary schools and early years centres will be closed on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Meanwhile, home care services - which help vulnerable people with washing, dressing and cooking meals - are also expected to be hit, with around 6,000 thought to be affected.

There have also been warnings that while secondary schools, museums and libraries will stay open in Glasgow, cleaning and catering services could be impacted by the strike.

What Do The Council Say?

Glasgow City Council has branded the strike “unnecessary”, saying that it is already “absolutely committed” to reaching a negotiated settlement and delivering equal pay. 

“We understand why many of our workforce are angry about equal pay, but there is nothing that this strike can achieve that we are not already doing,” a spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, the council has raised concerns that the strike “will be felt most keenly by the most vulnerable people in the city” due to its impact on home care services. 

Has This Happened Before?

Some of the UK’s biggest supermarket chains are also in the midst of a row over equal pay.

It emerged in September that Morrisons is facing equal pay claims worth more than £1 billion over allegations that shop floor staff - the majority of whom are women - were paid less than staff working in distribution centres - who tend to be men - despite doing comparable work.

According to law firm Leigh Day around 80,000 Morrisons staff could be eligible for compensation.

The law firm is also working on claims on behalf of 30,000 staff at Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco.