Commonwealth Games faces strike threat over equal pay row



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Union chiefs have issued a daring ultimatum to city council leaders: ‘Sort out equal pay issues or we will ballot for strike action during the Commonwealth Games.’ The GMB union, representing 7,000 of the city council’s nearly 12,000 staff, say anger is mounting among staff over a new dispute around unequal working arrangements between job roles.

They warn that if it’s not resolved before the Games kick off in July there could be disruption to vital city services. “The eyes of the millions worldwide will soon be on our city and we’re urging the council to act now before our members are forced to consider taking action in the interests of their pay and rights at work,” said one union official.

The trouble is linked back to historic equal pay wrangles that have so far cost the city council more than a billion pounds in settlements. A new job evaluation scheme and settlement promise was devised by the council to try to close down future claims, and was generally well received, we understand.

Read more: Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games tickets back on sale for every sport

But Stuart Richards, GMB senior organiser, said concerns had since been raised around continued examples of inequality, with the council allegedly ‘bending’ agreed rules in a way that advantages one group of workers but not all. They say bin workers, for example, have been permitted to finish early if they complete their rounds under the terms of an emergency Covid agreement, still in place – but no such concession has been extended to other work roles, and this contravenes the agreement.

He also said attempts to get a full list of ranked job roles and equivalence had also not been forthcoming from the council. “There have been historic issues around equal pay, well documented, and yet despite our efforts new problems arise. City council members are also increasingly frustrated that the focus of the leadership of the council appears to be on the Games at the expense of serious issues,” he added.

“This issue has now dragged on. The job evaluation scheme itself is fairly good but they have allowed individual areas of the council to bend those agreements.

“It is great that activist members in one area of the council can get changes to work patterns agreed, but that then needs to be applied fairly to everyone.” He said the timescales were tight but the threat to possibly disrupt the showcase Games was real.

“We have informally been consulting with members and begin formal consultation next week.” Michelle McCrossen, GMB Regional Organiser, added: “The Commonwealth Games are a huge opportunity for our city to showcase the best of Birmingham, but risks being overshadowed by the brewing equal pay crisis faced our members.

“GMB won’t stand by as our members concerns are ignored; we’re 100 per cent committed to fighting for a solution. The eyes of the millions worldwide will soon be on our city and we’re urging the council to act now before our members are forced to consider taking action in the interests of their pay and rights at work.

“This is a matter of basic justice; women workers are being consistently underpaid by Birmingham City Council and GMB won’t stand by and let that be forgotten.”

A Birmingham City Council spokesperson said: “The council is committed to treating all members of staff fairly and committed to resolving any outstanding matters around equal pay once and for all and encourage any trade union concerns to be discussed and explored with the council.”

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