Well I think I've answered my own question....mostly.
The rear pads without the plastic shims leave the clips from the metal shims protruding beyond the backing plate. These will scrape the disc once the pad wear goes beyond the clip.
Here's the pad without the plastic shim:
Here's the pad with the plastic shim:
Here's the front pad which doesn't need the shim in any case:
Have I solved this mystery?
Whatever the case, I've put the plastic shims on the rear pads. Test ride tomorrow.