Councillors ‘summoned’ by Labour council to attend meeting despite union protest
Workers at Birmingham City Council will mount a protest at the council’s Victoria Square office tomorrow in protest at planned cuts to services and jobs after the council declared a ‘114 notice’ – effectively declaring itself bankrupt – blaming workers’ demands for equal pay for men and women. The council owes some £760m in unpaid wages to underpaid women.
Members of the GMB, Unison and Unite unions will blockade the offices from 5pm. Councillors have been ‘summoned’ to attend a mandatory meeting despite the effective picket. It is not yet known whether any Labour councillors – many of whom are also members of the unions – will join the protest.
Caroline Johnson, joint secretary of the council’s Unison branch, said the 114 notice may be cover for a manoeuvre to downgrade everyone’s pay instead of increasing the pay of women who had not been paid equally:
I think it would suit officers to lower the pay of everybody in the council and one way to do it is to use an untransparent scheme and then lower the pay line for everybody. I think there’s an attempt to blame the workforce somehow. It’s either ‘those women who want their equal pay’ or it’s ‘those men who’ve been overpaid’ [who get blamed]. We stand very firmly with our refuse workers – they’re not overpaid. Women are underpaid when men are not overpaid in this organisation.
GMB organiser Rachel Fagan said the council leadership was playing politics despite years of efforts by unions to resolve the situation:
This is pure politics from council top brass, piling pressure onto politicians to take what would be a catastrophic decision for the city.
The council’s proposals lock workers out of the job evaluation process, risking more discrimination and more debt which would threaten the future of the city’s services. Birmingham City Council already owes hundreds of millions of pounds to its low-paid women workers, wages that have been stolen from them over years of discriminatory pay practises, and that bill is growing by the minute.
For almost two years, GMB has urged the council to work with us in re-implementing the NJC scheme, the gold standard scheme for local government jobs. That would end the discrimination and stop the clock on the city’s mounting equal pay debts. The council needs to act quickly, but the people of Birmingham can’t afford for them to get this wrong again. Another sticking plaster fix won’t cut it. It’s time for real pay justice.
Locals are now raising questions about when Keir Starmer and the council leadership knew about the impending bankruptcy declaration – council leader John Cotton has denied knowing about it in advance but allegations are circulating that both he and Starmer knew as far back as February. The financial chaos has allowed the Tories to take effective control of the council by appointing commissioners.
In July, Skwawkbox revealed that more ‘chaos’ in the council’s computer system – which had not been trialled before implementation – was preventing the council from paying suppliers or even calculating its tax bill. The ‘Labour’ council – taken over this summer by Cotton after an alleged Starmer-driven ‘coup’ – also has a long record of trying to manage its financial problems by cutting workers’ pay.
SKWAWKBOX needs your help. The site is provided free of charge but depends on the support of its readers to be viable. If you’d like to help it keep revealing the news as it is and not what the Establishment wants you to hear – and can afford to without hardship – please click here to arrange a one-off or modest monthly donation via PayPal or here to set up a monthly donation via GoCardless (SKWAWKBOX will contact you to confirm the GoCardless amount). Thanks for your solidarity so SKWAWKBOX can keep doing its job.
If you wish to republish this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.