Equal pay row as Unions call for same deal

Unison are one of the unions pushing for settlement of the Equal Pay issue
Unison are one of the unions pushing for settlement of the Equal Pay issue

Hundreds of Falkirk Council workers have been made offers to settle their equal pay claims.

But talks with unions representing hundreds more employees have stalled because they say the latest deal on the table for them is worth less money.

It is understood lawyers hired on a ‘no win no fee’ basis and known collectively as HBJ have negotiated a settlement with the town hall for their clients which forced the council to increase its equal pay budget from £4 million to £6.1 million.

Now the GMB, Unison and Unite are demanding the final cash payout to its members is calculated in the same way.

If they win their argument, it could cost the council £7.6 million to meet the cost of the claims.

Councillors met in private last week to consider the latest development and agree their next move.

They were told: “Good progress has been made with the HBJ negotiations and the agreement settles a large amount of the claims from major players. The unions will continue to seek the best possible negotiated settlement for their clients which in turn would require a further increase in budget provision. However, the funds available to the council are severely stretched so there are difficult choices.”

Yesterday (Wednesday), Gray Allan who represents the council’s Unison members, confirmed: “Our lawyers are in negotiation with the council to make sure our members don’t settle for any less than what the ‘no win no fee’ employees have been offered. It would be completely unfair to expect our members to do otherwise.”

It is thought an ‘agreement in principle’ over terms had been reached with the Unions last August.

But after a similar arrangement with legal teams in the ‘no win no fee’ camp was signed in February at a higher rate, they went back insisting a new clause be written in which would have the effect of new offers being made to Union claimants which would make up the difference.

It is understood the Unions have made it clear the addition of the new demand is not negotiable.

Trade unions negotiated Single Status job evaluation for local government in 1999 hoping it would enforce the Equal Pay Act without taking pay claims to industrial tribunal.

It was designed to establish whether jobs were of equal value and bring in a pay model that would remove the need for equal pay claims.

Jobs which had previously been classed as manual or administrative/clerical would be brought together under one pay scale and one set of terms and conditions.

Falkirk Council introduced Single Status in December 2006.

But it has proved complicated and challenging for councils across the country.

The council continues to receive claims and in April the Scottish Government said it would seek in future to introduce sanctions on public authorities who were seen to have delayed equal pay settlements.