Labour's poison pill legacy for Birmingham
The employment tribunal hearing this week is not the end of a legal dispute about the pay structures that Birmingham City Council had operated over a number of years. However, it does bring to the fore the problems left to the current administration by Labour.
The Council faces potentially a really large additional bill for compensation because indefensible bonus schemes applied to much of the male workforce, but not the generally female jobs.
The problem, however, arose because of the schemes established by Labour when they were in control of the authority as has been recognised by the Birmingham Post in Iron AngleLabour spin doctors in London were quick off the mark, seeking to present the city council’s Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition as a bunch of incompetent, merciless, misogynists discriminating against downtrodden women.
Sir Albert Bore, leader of the council’s opposition group, fumed that the whole issue of equal pay had been mishandled. Birmingham would now pay the price.
Yes, well, mishandled indeed, but not necessarily by the current Tory-Lib Dem administration.
The outrageous and indefensible “bonus” payments were in fact put in place largely during the 21 years of Labour council rule from the mid 1980s to 2004 as the party bowed to trade union demands. Union demands which, incidentally, were expressly designed to reward male employees over low-paid women.
The first part of Judge Goodier’s ruling sheds light on the chaos encircling Sir Albert as his period as leader of the council shuddered to a sticky end in the run-up to the 2004 city elections.
Desperately attempting to hatch a deal on Single Status pay negotiations, Albert was faced by the unions’ position that “it was the fault of Birmingham City Council” that employees were receiving bonus payments and that it would be unfair to remove them.
The judgment itself recognises that it was only when the administration changed that there was any impetus for the indefensible schemes to be changed.
The judgment is not the final step. Many of the cases relate to employees working in schools. In those schools the grade for the staff member is identified by the governing body. That should mean that under the "single source" principle their income should only be compared to people working in the same school.
However, that is a matter that the courts need to be look at. Even if the administration manages to win a legal case on this voters in looking at the local elections should be quite clear that they cannot risk ever putting the inoompetent Labour Party back in control of the city council.