Richard Leonard calls for apology over Labour council’s equal pay fight

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The leader of Scottish Labour has said women in Glasgow City Council are owed an apology for “too much resistance” to their equal pay claims when the local authority was under control by his party.

Speaking to the party’s Women’s Conference in Glasgow, Richard Leonard said Labour, in power in the city for decades before being ousted by the SNP last May, settled many equal pay claims but there was “too much legal obstruction”.

Scottish Labour leader, Richard Leonard

Scottish Labour leader, Richard Leonard

The council dropped its legal challenge in January with cross-party agreement, having previously lost a Court of Session appeal against an Employment Appeal Tribunal ruling that they had continued to discriminate against women through the introduction of payment protections upholding the earnings of male colleagues following the initial wave of equal pay awards.

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Unison said the women want a fair and transparent pay scheme and compensation and that the council has agreed to discuss a settlement for the 11,000 claimants with it and other trade unions.

Mr Leonard said: “I am pleased that we are now on the right side of the argument with equal pay in Glasgow City Council.

“Many equal pay claims were settled under Labour in Glasgow, but there was too much resistance, too much legal obstruction and for that I think we owe those women an apology.”

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He emphasised plans to tackle discrimination and harassment within Scottish Labour and wider society in the wake of the sexual harassment scandals at Westminster and Holyrood.

His focus on discrimination follows his leadership rival and fellow MSP Anas Sarwar speaking out about his own experiences of abuse and criticism of Mr Leonard’s decision not to suspend MP Hugh Gaffney, who apologised earlier this month after making “deeply offensive and unacceptable” remarks about the LGBT community and Chinese people.

Scottish Labour has announced plans to set-up a special sub-committee of the party’s Scottish executive to develop an anti-discrimination and harassment policy.

Mr Leonard said: “Over the past few months the culture of politics, particularly in relation to gender equality, has rightly come under the spotlight.

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“Politicians - including some in the Labour Party - have been found to engage in behaviour, that falls well below the standards we in this room, and in this party and in this movement, expect and deserve.

“There has, once again, been a breakdown of trust between politicians and those they hope to serve. So my job, our job is to work to rebuild that trust.

“We will work to ensure women across Scotland know that the Labour Party stands up for them. We will work to end discrimination both within the party and without.”

He added: “Scottish Labour, under my leadership, will be at the forefront of the drive for equality.”

Mr Leonard said he had already taken steps to make the party more equal, adding: “That action comes from the one driving principle - that there is no place for any form of discrimination in the Labour Party, be it sexism, be it homophobia, be it racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.”