Glasgow Life is an arms length ‘charity’ controlled by Glasgow city council that holds the contract for organising cultural and sporting events at Glasgow’s prestigious Emirates Arena. Its stated mission is “to inspire the city’s citizens and visitors to lead richer and more active lives through culture, sport and learning”.
Glasgow Life, which last year had a turnover of £127m, boasts an array of local worthies on its board of directors, including two financiers (Sir Angus Grossart and Benny Higgins), the former CEO of Glasgow airport (Amanda McMillan OBE), the principal of Glasgow university (Professor Anton Muscatelli) and last but not least the head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Scotland (Professor Lesley Sawers).
It appears, however, that these lofty pillars of society are running a corner-cutting, strike-busting outfit with scant regard for the ‘human rights’ of their own employees.
The dispute began when Glasgow Life withheld from 30 of its employees previously agreed payments for undertaking heavy lifting duties. Pressing the company to honour its agreement, on 25 November last year Unite began an overtime ban.
Instead of simply recognising its error and paying the agreed bonus (which amounted to only about £10 a week), Glasgow Life at once employed subcontractors to come in and set up events and undertake de-rigging work. In response, Unite called four days of strike action over the Christmas period.
The dispute rumbled on into the new year, with a further four days of strikes in March and another two on 29 and 30 April. On each occasion, Glasgow Life preferred to respond by investing vast amounts of cash on renting a scab army rather than restore the tenner a week it has been filching from its own employees’ wage packets.
Unite claims that between November and the end of February Glasgow Life spent £43,093 on scabs, a sum that dwarfs the roughly £15,000 a year that the union calculates it would cost to pay the workers what they are owed.
As ever in such cases, the real employer (the SNP-run Glasgow city council) keeps itself at ‘arms length’ from the official employer (Glasgow Life), which in turn rents an army of strike-breakers from a third company.