Thousands rally for pay equality

Glasgow is seeing its biggest equal pay strike in decades as 8,000 march on George Square.

Hundreds of schools, nurseries, and other local government organisations are striking due to a long-running dispute about equal pay for women.

GMB gen sec on far right

GMB General Secretary Tim Roache with striking workers at Glasgow City Chambers

Although Glasgow City Council has said the strike is unnecessary, GMB and Unison workers unions note a distinct lack of progress in negotiations over the pay issue.

The problem has arisen from a pay and conditions scheme introduced by Glasgow City Council in 2006. The scheme means that due to differing work conditions, workers in female-dominated industries like teaching, catering and cleaning are receiving up to £3 an hour less than workers in male-dominated industries like refuse collection.

Gary Smith, the Scottish secretary of GMB, spoke to us about the march in Glasgow:

“The Glasgow Women’s strike is the biggest ever strike over sex discrimination and equal pay. 8000 women have downed tools and brought large parts of the city to a halt. This is a magnificent display of solidarity amongst the women of Glasgow.”

Other industries which are unaffected by the pay dispute – or on the other side of it, such as refuse workers – have also been striking to support the female marchers in Glasgow.

GMB European Officer Kathleen Walker Shaw told EN4 News:

“The strike action and demonstration has met with widespread public support in Glasgow, Scotland, the UK and internationally with messages of solidarity pouring in from public service workers across the world.”

These messages included a speech from Rosa Pavanelli, the general Secretary of the 20-million-strong PSI Global union:

Councillors in Glasgow reiterate that there is no need for the strike. Council Leader Susan Aitken spoke to the BBC, stating:

“I’m not entirely sure why this strike is taking place. Negotiations have been continuing. We’ve made considerable progress in a number of areas.”

Over 12,000 claims have been made to the council to alert them of pay issues caused by the 2006 scheme. After pay increases and payouts for backdated claims, the issue could ultimately cost between £500 million and £1 billion.

Analysis: Edinburgh Council Budget Plans for 2018/19

Music tuition and public toilets may face the axe.

Image: Ross Cowper-Fraser

Bruntsfield Primary may have its music tuition funding halved

The City of Edinburgh Council has been tasked with the difficult job of trying to save £28 million in the 2018/19 budget.

Over the past week a series of articles have been released by Edinburgh publications detailing potential plans for how the council will handle the budget.

Documents shown to Ian Swanson at the Edinburgh Evening News have revealed controversial proposals such as cutting funding in schools, music tuition and public libraries.

Edinburgh Council have dismissed the Evening News’ findings, saying that there is a good chance nothing will come from them.

Even still, as Ian Swanson discussed today, does the public not have the right to know ‘where the axe may fall?’

Finance Convener Alasdair Rankin believes that the public shouldn’t be concerned with cuts that may not happen, but perhaps transparency is the best policy when discussing the lives of Edinburgh’s citizens.

The council are currently running a scheme to canvas opinion on how to handle the budget, so if they are involving the public to some degree, perhaps the public should know more about what is being considered.

Schools

Last year, in another leak to the Evening News, it was revealed that there were proposals to close the world renowned Edinburgh School of Music. When this leak was revealed, a campaign was launched to save the music school, which was supported by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. The threat was lifted, and the council have made clear that the school will not be affected by the proposal to halve the budget for music education in Edinburgh.

The options the council could consider for the proposed cut is to either halve the number of full-time music teachers, potentially reducing the amount of pupils learning instruments from around 5084 to 2542, or charging pupils for lessons, with the exemption of those studying for SQA exams and those who receive free school meals.

In an opinion piece in the Edinburgh Evening News, Ex-Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has heavily criticised the proposal to cut music education, saying that “cuts to schools must be a red line.”

Scottish schools, and Edinburgh schools in particular, have been facing difficulties in acquiring staff, as well as attainment in national exams now being lower than it was with standard grades.

With the proposed closure of music school last year, and the proposed cuts this year, it appears that music tuition is on the bottom of the list of education services in Edinburgh.

Public Toilets

Public toilets are also under threat of closures, with the council hoping to save £250,000.

Councillor Rankin has stated that at this stage, the proposal has only been drawn up by council officials and has not been approved by the SNP-Labour administration.

The council will be hoping to balance the closures through their Community Toilet Scheme, in which the council pays business owners £500 a year to allow customers to use their toilets without having to make a purchase. The scheme was launched in 2014 but currently only nine businesses are signed up.

After speaking to a few businesses in Bruntsfield, it became apparent that not enough know about the Community Toilet Scheme, although they all thought it was a good idea.

Image: Ross Cowper-Fraser

Montpeliers in Bruntsfield is one of the establishments which may take advantage of the Community Toilet Scheme

 

This proposal has been met with criticism, due to public toilets being an essential part of any city, especially for those with conditions meaning they need to go to the toilet more frequently, as well as young children.

As of now, there is no way of knowing how effective a replacement the Toilet Scheme could be for public toilets, it all depends on how strong an incentive the £500 a year is for business owners.

Councillor Rankin has said to the Edinburgh Evening News that closing the toilets may not be the final solution, and they might end up with an amended version of what the officers are suggesting.

Adam, Bar Supervisor of Montpeliers in Bruntsfield: “I haven’t heard of [The Community Toilet Scheme] before, but it sounds a good idea, and I’d definitely go for it. We have a lot of people coming in and using the toilet anyway, we even have homeless people coming in and cleaning themselves in the sink. I don’t know if [getting rid of public toilets] would bring in more people, though.”

Marco, Owner of Tempo Perso in Bruntsfield: “We have over ten people a day coming in asking to use the toilet. I haven’t heard of it before but if I turn away people I don’t want, I would sign up.”

Tourist Tax

The tax, which has been voted through by Edinburgh council and is facing consultation today, hopes to generate £11 million a year.

It is unknown if the tourist tax will help towards the budget for 2018/19.

It has been described by Councillor Ian White, the leader of the Tory group as “a dog’s breakfast of a policy [that] should be ditched at this point.”

Council leader Adam McVey told the Scotsman that the charge would “help to fund the things we pay for to make Edinburgh such a vibrant city”.

He said: “It would be an understatement to say this has been a long time coming. This goes to the heart of the kind of city we want to be.”

If perhaps some of an approved tourist tax would go towards helping the council’s budget, it wouldn’t have to consider cutting services such as music tuition and public toilets.

The writer’s comment;

The City of Edinburgh Council are clearly in a difficult position. One on side, they need to save a great deal of money, and no matter what they cut, there will be a backlash. On the other, they should be careful in their consideration of making more cuts to schools, as this goes against Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘defining mission’ to raise attainment in Scottish classrooms. The Edinburgh Evening News have put even more pressure on the council by releasing these potential plans, which have already received backlash from the public. Nothing is official about the plans, but as Ian Swanson said, the public do have the right to know what may happen to their city.

By Liam Mackay

 

 

Midlothian council hope to acquire new parking powers

Midlothian Council are set to be awarded new parking powers in an attempt to prevent drivers from committing parking offences in the city.

This comes from the withdrawal of police enforcement in the county, and the introduction of decriminalised parking, which will change parking offences in the county from a criminal issue into a civil one, meaning the council will issue tickets to those who park their cars on double yellow lines.

Parking attendants will be put in place to monitor parking offences, in hopes to improve congestion through parking restrictions in certain areas and law enforcements such as yellow lines and time limited parking bays.

yellow lines

Parking on double yellow lines will still be an issue, but may soon be in the hands of the council. Image Credit: Google

Midlothian Council Conservative Councillor Pauline Winchester said;

“These changes mean that the roads that currently suffer with cars badly parked should get some reprieve once tickets start being given out.

“There are parking restrictions for a reason, and these are being ignored by a minority of people. The changes should help to make routes clearer for cars and crossing points safer for pedestrians.

“The council will introduce the changes and give affected area residents notice by initially putting dummy tickets on the offending vehicles.”

The decision of whether or not to grant the council these decriminalised parking powers currently lies with the Scottish Government, however it is expected that these will be approved within in the next couple of weeks.

 

 

 

Edinburgh Cyclists to get head start at traffic lights

Under new council plans announced today, cyclists will get a head start at traffic light junctions along the tram route.

These new traffic lights that would go green for riders before other traffic would be installed at 14 different sites along the tram route. These same lights are already in use at the Leith Walk/ McDonald Road junction.Plans follow the red cycle lanes for riders to cross tramlines more safely installed last autumn.

The tram route running down Princes Street is one of the busiest with cyclists. Credit: Calum McRobert @ Geograph.org

The work was triggered after the death of Malaysian student Zhi Min Soh, whose bike wheels became caught in tram tracks last May at the junction of Shandwick Place and Queensferry Street. These plans are also part of a public consultation which launched on the council website today and will run unitl the 11th of April.If approved the lights will be expected to be implemented towards the end of the year.

Transport convener Lesley Macinnes stated,

“With the first phase of cycle safety improvements already in place – and, according to our feedback, well-received by cyclists – and the second phase just weeks away from being implemented, we’re now looking to the public for feedback on our proposed designs for phase three, which we aim to put in place later this year.”

“Road safety is absolutely paramount and we’ve been working extremely closely with our partners to refine these designs.”

Early release signals for cyclists have been credited with reducing collisions in cities where they’re already used so these are a particularly desirable option.The council have said a fourth and final phase would involve changes to the road layout at the Princes Street/Lothian Road/Shandwick Place/Queensferry Street/Hope Street junction to improve road safety for cyclists, pedestrians and drivers alike.

 

Free Lunch Cancelled for Councillors

774px-the_edinburgh_city_chambers_high_street_edinburgh

They say there is no such thing as a free lunch. Well, not anymore. Local councillors have been informed that they will no longer be getting free lunch at noon, as they are finishing their work too early.

The decision has led to complaints that councillors are not doing enough work, as the coalition winds down in the run up to the local elections in May.

Conservative councillor Dominic Heslop explained: “Some of the longer-serving councillors will tell you the lunch was necessary when the meetings when on until 7pm or 8pm. But when they can be over by 11.30am can it really be justified?”

Instead councillors will be offered a buffet on full council days, otherwise they will have to pay for their own lunch.

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