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‘Hello. I notice you are a woman in a well paid position. Here’s a £3k pay-cut that you must accept or be sacked. I notice that you are also a woman, you must have a £10k pay-cut or you too will be sacked’

Sometimes I think my headlines are too long. Sometimes I think they are just about right. This one is probably too long but let’s get on with the blog.

I’m sitting here in my PJ bottoms at what half one or so tap tapping away on my PC doing what I do (seriously working from home can be great when you lack the basic motivation to get dressed) and my phone dings, ‘So I’ll be losing at least £3k from my wages. I’m incredibly fucked off’ is what I stare at on the screen. I inquire as to why and I’m told to google ‘walsall council single status’ and I do. At first I thought that she was losing at least £3k in wages because she is single and I thought that was really rather harsh and not on. However the truth has nothing to do with my friend’s martial status.

In 1997 the Single Status Agreement was drawn up to equalise pay between the genders working in local government. Now whilst most women would win in this scenario and men lose out – it can work both ways. So to make things fair they are going to screw some people to reward others. Got to love a well-thought out idea that in practice is shit.

Last night Walsall Council approved the new pay plan that would see them fully adopt the Single Status Agreement and change everyone’s pay structure overnight. If people do not want to accept these new pay and conditions then they will be handed their p45 and be asked to leave the building. That is not exactly fair or right in anyone’s language.

Worse still when a text arrives a few minutes later that tells me her former line manager who is now working in another part of the Council as that department was shutdown is set to lose at least £10k a year in wages. Such a drop-off in income with result in her not being able to afford her mortgage. Is this what the Single Status Agreement was drawn up for? To help put hardworking people on the streets?

Now I’m not a public sector guy and I never have been but surely most people can see that this is all sorts of wrong. Just because ‘most people will benefit’ doesn’t make it a good thing and it certainly doesn’t make it a fair thing. Pay and conditions should not be shoe-horned into grades so that the males and females on staff have an average pay by grade that is equal. That sounds fair but in practice in total rubbish. It is even worse when these moves are sudden and not grandfathered in over time.

Walsall Council has overnight decided that certain staff members deserve dramatic and hard-hitting pay-cuts for no other reason than they want to have equal pay across all grades for both genders. Of course on the flip side of the coin we’ll see many get big pay-rises for no good reason other than to make things fair.

This stinks of political correctness not gone mad – but gone so loopy that it would need two straitjackets to keep it under control. I’m not surprised my friend is livid and I suspect the union’s are going to be very vocal about it. There is a difference between small long-term pension changes for economic reasons and some big changes in pay just so that they can say pay is on average equal across pay grades between men and women.

I know how I’d feel if I was suddenly told my salary would be reduced by between 15 and 20% just because I’m a man. I wouldn’t be very happy at all…

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  1. admin admin

    I think the last sentence says a lot. As I wrote about being ‘grandfathered in’ if they could freeze those pay packets until the rest have caught up then I can understand that – as I suspect could others – however as I understand it this is not going to be the case under the agreement reached by Walsall CC.

  2. Liberal Neil Liberal Neil

    I can’t comment on how Walsall have done this, but the basic aim of the Single Status Agreement was to equalise pay and conditions between blue-collar and white-collar workers. Previously white-collar workers had typically enjoyed better pay for similar responsibilities. There will inevitably be losers as well as gainers from this process and some will be women.

    It sounds like Walsall is a bit behind in this process in that I remember us (Oxfordshire) going through this process when I was a councillor, which was 6 years ago.

    When we did it the majority ended up better off and we coped with the ‘losers’ by freezing their pay in cash terms until everyone else caught up.

  3. admin admin

    From what I can gather they have made a huge pay review and lumped new posts/positions into a new pay structure. Meaning that many of had their pay changed. In general I suspect men have been hit as hard or even harder than women overall but I’ve gone with women as the headline as the story as to be blunt – my friend is a woman who has been hit by it and also men’s pay being brought down is more generally accepted than women’s.

  4. So the implication is that before these changes men in senior positions were paid less than women in identical jobs? Usually pay discrimination is the other way round. How was it that the council’s male staff (including its Chief Executive Paul Sheehan) didn’t manage to get their salaries raised to an equal level (after all, they usually control most of the key positions and most councillors in England are men)?

    Regardless of that it does seem pretty high-handed to do nothing for 13-14 years after the Single Status Agreement and then suddenly implement big salary cuts to get to equality in one go. Couldn’t they have phased in the changes gradually so that no one would suffer a salary cut?

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