Glasgow City Council reaches settlement in equal pay dispute

Written by Jenni Davidson on 17 January 2019 in News

A £500m payout has been agreed in principle between council leader Susan Aitken and trade unions and lawyers representing council workers

Glasgow City Chambers - Image credit: Viv Lynch via Flickr

Glasgow City Council has reached a settlement in a long-running dispute over equal pay.

A £500m payout has been agreed in principle between council leader Susan Aitken and trade unions and lawyers representing around 14,000 mainly female council workers.

While the deal has yet to be approved by councillors and the claimants themselves – and the council is still in the process of raising to funds to cover the cost – Aitken said it was a “hugely significant step”.

The claimants were represented by Action4Equality, Unison, GMB and Unite.

Stefan Cross QC from Action4equality said that both sides had made “serious concessions” so they could both be satisfied that it was a fair deal.

Councillor Susan Aitken said: “Almost exactly a year since the city government led on the hugely significant step of abandoning many years of litigation on equal pay, I am delighted that the council and claimants representatives have agreed an offer which I will recommend to committee for their approval in the coming weeks.

“We were clear that this was always likely to take at least a year and the sheer volume of cases involved and the complexity of the council’s pay and grading arrangements were such that this was never going to be easy.

“My commitment to resolving this issue has never wavered and I have never needed to be convinced of the case for equality.

“I would like to thank each and every council officer who has been involved in this at times extremely challenging process, the claimants’ representatives who have steadfastly represented their members and clients throughout and the claimants themselves for their patience.

“After a decade of obstruction and inaction, in a relatively short space of time we have now reached agreement which delivers the pay justice these women long have fought for.

“I am proud to be able to recommend a settlement to right this historic injustice and I trust colleagues across the chambers will support this deal and the work we must undertake to address the future challenges it places before us.”

The problems arose in Glasgow in 2006 when the city council adopted a job evaluation scheme that resulted in a number of female-dominated roles being paid less than male-dominated ones.

In 2017, the Court of Session ruled that the pay and benefits review in Glasgow had discriminated against female workers.

The SNP had committed to resolving the historical pay dispute when it became the largest party on the council in 2017, but in October 2018 thousands of council workers in Glasgow went on strike over a perceived lack of progress towards a deal.

Payments to the workers will be in made sometime between April and the end of 2019.

After the settlements have been made, a new job evaluation process will be carried out to replace the current pay scheme.

Dave Prentis UNISON general secretary, said: “Women working for Glasgow City Council are a step closer to equal pay. Some have been owed substantial amounts for more than a decade.

“Having gone to court and been out on strike, it looks like the end is now in sight. 

"Although there may be a few more months to wait before the women finally get their cheques, this is truly a day to celebrate."

GMB Scotland organiser Hazel Nolan said: “This is a significant moment and is recognition of the value of women in this city, brought about by the women themselves understanding their own value and fighting for it together.

“Much will be said about the scale of the settlement reached but when you’re a worker on a wage what you’re selling ultimately is your time, and decades of systematic gender discrimination meant that women in Glasgow were forced to work longer hours for less.

“We need to be clear that this can only financially compensate women for the time stolen from them, the time that could have been spent with their families and loved ones can’t be repaid.

“What is important now is that the claimants and their families can have confidence in this agreement and in the process of delivery in the coming weeks and months.”

Wendy Dunsmore, Unite regional industrial officer, said: “This is a day of celebration for the workers in Glasgow City Council who were unfairly treated and discriminated against.

“These workers have been financially disadvantaged for years.

“The deal addresses these historic wrongs. 

“Unite members will be delighted that the many years of wait is almost at an end.”

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