Schools close and care withdrawn in ‘biggest strike of its kind’

Hundreds of schools and nurseries are shut and home care services affected as Glasgow City Council workers stage a 48-hour strike – believed to be the biggest of its kind.

The industrial action on Tuesday and Wednesday, which involves more than 8,000 members of the GMB and Unison unions, comes in a dispute over equal pay.

Thousands of female workers are proceeding with claims against the council following a Court of Session ruling last year.

Glasgow City Council said the strike was unnecessary and it hopes to reach a settlement in the coming months and start paying out in the next financial year.

GMB Scotland organiser Rhea Wolfson said members will bring the city to a “standstill” to progress negotiations.

Unions also said they feared action could be taken against refuse and street cleaning workers if they refuse to cross picket lines.

Glasgow City Council said all early years establishments, additional support for learning (ASL) schools and mainstream primary schools will close on both days, though all mainstream secondary schools will remain open.

Home care services for around 6,000 people are affected by the industrial action.

The local authority said it had explored all options to avert the strike.

Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken told BBC Radio Scotland: “The strike will have a devastating impact and there’s no need for it.”

She added: “I don’t believe that the demands are strong enough to justify industrial action of this scale, I don’t blame the women or the claimants in any way whatsoever, I understand their frustration, they’ve waited a long time for justice but they’ve won their case.

“They won their case the day that the SNP was elected to lead Glasgow City Council and we have been working ever since then to deliver them justice.

“We are extremely close to it and I am confident that they will get the settlement that they are entitled to and we will start paying out in the next financial year.”

The local authority introduced its Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR) and grading scheme in 2006 to tackle inequalities.

Some female workers say the way it is structured led to people in female-dominated roles are being paid up to £3 an hour less than people in male-dominated roles.

Some women are said to have been paid up to £4,000 a year less than male counterparts.

The council said the way union leaders have approached the strike has been “hugely disappointing”.

A spokesman said: “We believed we had an agreement on providing life and limb cover for our most vulnerable citizens – indeed, the unions told the public that cover would be in place.

“It won’t. There has been absolutely no meaningful effort from the unions to work with us and their membership to ensure that life and limb cover will be in place.”

Council workers march for equal pay
Council workers march for equal pay

Glasgow City Council sent letters to those affected informing them their care will be withdrawn for two days during the strike.

The GMB said unions have agreed to all council requests to support the life and limb cover plan, adding the offer from union members to work through the strike to support vulnerable home care users still stands.

Ms Wolfson said: “The council’s officers have been incapable of putting in place the most basic cover despite having three weeks to prepare and the offers we have made every single day to resolve the dispute.”

She added: “Our members work for some of the most vulnerable elderly and disabled people in our community and we would never do anything that could cause them harm.”