There’s nothing worse than hypocrisy. Except maybe, election fuelled hypocrisy.
Eager to steal a march on the SNP, Iain Gray announced that Scottish Labour would introduce a living wage if elected to government in 2011. As he told delegates at the UK Labour conference: “..those at the bottom of the pay scales must be protected. That is why I will introduce a Scottish Living wage, of over £7 per hour….beginning in the public sector but building out from there, through partnership, and procurement we will create a movement, a campaign against poverty pay.”
Fair enough. Or is it?
The announcement conveniently ignores the fact that Scottish Labour, either while running the Scottish Executive between 1999 and 2007, or through its trade union partners, or worst of all, through the councils it controls, has failed to support or implement measures that would have removed poverty pay from the public sector years ago.
The truth is that no man in the public sector currently earns below £7 an hour. The only people earning below that threshold are women. Because they are still waiting for settlement of their equal pay claims, some of which now stretch back years.
The burdz instinct told her all this but I consulted a man who would know to get the low down. Mark Irvine, former head of local government in Unison in Scotland and now a consultant and founder of the campaign Action 4 Equality Scotland. His blog supports and highlights equal pay claims and he posted on this very issue earlier this week:
“…does it mean that the Scottish Labour leader now accepts that many women’s jobs in the public services have been undervalued and underpaid for years? If so, where has he been all this time, when the fight for equal pay has been the single biggest issue facing councils in Scotland, many of them Labour controlled? If we assume that Iain Gray is a new convert to the cause of equal pay, presumably we can also assume that he supports thousands of women workers being compensated properly for the losses they’ve incurred for years.”
The scandal is that for years, trade unions kept their women members in the dark about the differential pay scales in operation. They then ignored their women members’ requests for support and refused to represent them in their claims. I know this because I know several women who tried to get their union to take up their case in the earliest days and were ignored. Several of them have only recently had their claims settled.
Indeed, only this week, employment tribunals have been held against South Lanarkshire council to settle outstanding claims. South Lanarkshire, of course, is a bastion of Labour control and can proudly claim never to have settled a single equal pay claim willingly and timeously.
If Iain Gray and his Holyrood colleagues had supported women workers and put pressure on their political allies through the offices of government, there would in fact be no need for a public sector living wage campaign. Everyone in the public sector would be earning at least £7 an hour.
Instead, for years, all actors in the Scottish Labour movement, have colluded in a conspiracy of silence to deny some of the most lowly paid women in our society – who incidentally do some of the most important jobs as home carers, classroom assistants and cooks – their entitlement to a decent living wage.
“In a 21st Century Scotland no one who does a fair day’s work should receive less than a fair day’s pay.”
The burd agrees, Mr Gray. Shame you didn’t believe this before an election was looming.