MSP Gil Paterson: WDC Labour had five years to sort out equal pay — and FAILED before legal deadline
I fully endorse the statement made by Council Leader Jonathan McColl on the matter of equal pay at West Dunbartonshire Council.
The former Labour administration had five years to fix this and ensure everyone got their pay out in the legal timeframe, which inspired in March this year.
For Labour councillors to turn around at the second meeting of the new council this week and demand the SNP fix it is barefaced cheek.
Let me remind the Labour opposition that the SNP is the most gender-equal party in the UK and one of the most diverse parties in the entire world when it comes to gender.
Please see Council Leader Jonathan McColl's statement on the matter, which establishes the FACTS of the matter:
Jonathan McColl statement in full:
At last night's Council meeting, the SNP Administration ended the uncertainty and false hope given cynically to our employees by Labour and the Community Party.
For the last two months, the Labour Party and Cllr Jim Bollan have claimed that they could get hundreds of employees a payment under equal pay; knowingly misleading these employees, many of whom are female workers on low grades.
After decades of inequality under Labour, the SNP in 2009 voted to implement equal pay and fair pay for women and indeed all employees of West Dunbartonshire Council through a fair and transparent job evaluation process.
Many low paid men and women were moved onto new higher grades and awarded compensation payments. A national agreement was also signed with the joint Trade Unions.
In 2012, the national agreement was challenged, and it transpired that there was still an inequality in the way wages had been structured and many of these workers were due further compensation because of the continuing difference in pay between the 2009 agreement and 2012.
There was a massive Trade Union recruitment drive and all employees were written to either by their trade union or the trade union approved lawyer. Some 600 claims were submitted, 400 of which were valid and made settlement offers.
However, a large number of employees, despite the huge publicity campaign run by the Trade Unions both internally and in the press, did not submit a claim.
Labour could have resolved this issue during their 5 year term of administration as the legal claim period ran from 31st March 2012 to 31st March 2017 (Labour were the Administration with an overall majority on Council from (May 2012 to May 2017).
Instead, knowing that there was nothing that could be done now that the legal claim period was closed, they teamed up with the Community Party and decided that it was worth exploiting the emotions of our employees in order to create an unfixable problem for the new SNP Administration.
The SNP Administration explored every possibility that would allow time-barred payments to be made, including making what are termed 'ex gratia' payments to these employees that the previous Labour Administration chose not to help or even contact during the last 5 years.
Unfortunately, the legal position is clear. The SNP did not rely upon just our own internal legal advice from the Council's senior legal officer, but looked at external legal advice from Counsel with specific expertise in this area.
The advice was clear. To make any payments after the legal time bar had passed would be illegal.
No ifs, no buts, it’s clear to us that any payments would be illegal.
Senior Officers of the Council confirmed that if Councillors voted to break the law and make the payments, it would place officers in a very difficult position; being instructed by the Council to break the law and potentially breach their professional codes of practice.
Advice was also sought from the Trade Unions at a National Level. Their opinion was equally clear.
The Trade Unions’ opinion was that if the Council made these illegal payments, the Trade Unions would be concerned that the Council would be cutting across our legal and binding agreements, leaving us open to new challenges going forward.
To be clear about last night, Labour and the Community Party DID NOT move a motion that would have made these payments (because they know that would be illegal).
What they did was to move a motion asking for more information to come back on the financial implications of making payments, continuing to mislead our workers for another six months.
The legal position is not going to change, so in six months’ time, we would be back here with nowhere to go once more.
After criticising the Council Leader for not making a meeting of the Health Board in June due to having Council business to deal with, Labour had two members absent from last night’s Council meeting.
This ensured that they could not win the vote even if every opposition Councillor supported them.
They did not want to win the vote, because in six months, they would have had to vote not to make any payments. Any other motion would be ruled illegal and would not be permitted.