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10-year Pay Battle Reaches Resolution, as Local Authority Agrees to Settle

10-year Pay Battle Reaches Resolution, as Local Authority Agrees to Settle

A ten-year dispute over the underpayment of female employees at Glasgow City Council finally looks set to be resolved, as the local authority agrees to settle with aggrieved workers.

The issue centres around the evaluation of certain jobs in a 2006 review of the council’s workforce pay and benefits, and has been the subject of legal dispute for over a decade.

A group representing thousands of the claimants estimates that the 2006 restructuring of payments resulted in people employed in female-heavy roles such as home care and cleaning receiving on average £3 an hour less than those in male-dominated positions, such as grave-digging and refuse collection.

Previously, the Employment Appeal Tribunal had found that the local authority’s job evaluation scheme was valid in terms of equal pay laws.

In August 2017 however, the Court of Session ruled that Glasgow City Council’s reduction of pay in largely female areas of its workforce was discriminatory. In December, the same court refused the council’s bid to appeal the judgement. Now, the council has confirmed that it will not seek leave to appeal in the Supreme court, stating it will pursue “negotiation, not litigation” going forward.

A ‘great day’ for Glasgow’s low-paid workers

Carol Ball, chairwoman of Unison’s Glasgow City branch, said:

“This is a great day for the low-paid cleaners, carers, caterers and others working for Glasgow City Council who have waited 10 years for pay equality. A great day, but just the first day in the process of moving to equality – because settlement takes time.”

“Our members have waited long enough for the fair and equal pay they have worked hard for and deserve,” she added.

The decision ends the legal appeals process in a case the GMB union estimates has already cost the city council more than £1.8m in legal fees and an estimated £700,000 in staffing costs over the past decade.

Following this latest statement from Glasgow City Council, the stage is set negotiations to begin between the council and unions.

Hard-fought settlement to cost council £500m

Over 6,000 employees and former employees have made claims against the council’s cuts to pay in areas such as homecare and cleaning, since equivalent, male-heavy roles such as grave-digging and refuse collection suffered no such cuts.

Settling with all of them could cost the council as much as £500m in compensation.

Ironically, the 2006 measures had sought to bring the local authority employees under a single status payment scheme, free of discrimination – in line with a 1999 national agreement. But complications in unifying male-heavy roles now “in detriment” from the loss of historic privileges with female roles led to a perpetuation of inequalities. Men were awarded bonuses and paid more money where women were not.

The scheme affected tens of thousands of employees, and many more than the 6,000 already involved in the case are expected to claim as the issue is finally settled.

Union’s praise for council leader

The GMB union praised the work of council leader Susan Aitken, who assumed office in May 2017, in bringing justice to the longstanding conflict, with organiser Hazel Nolan stating: “Susan Aitken has committed her administration to resolving this discrimination and now we can begin negotiations that deliver fair and just settlements for our women and their families.”

Ms Aitken said: “This council under the previous Labour administration was involved in litigation for over a decade. The new city government has today led on drawing a line under that. Instead we seek a solution through on-going negotiation.”

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