Legal firm warns it’s set to take workers’ pay claims to court

Donna-Marie Gray
Donna-Marie Gray

A legal firm says it’s close to starting court action against trade unions it claims short-changed hundreds of members in equal pay claims.

DM Legal believes clients each lost out on tens of thousands of pounds because the unions didn’t take up their cases against North and South Lanarkshire Councils early enough.

Now it wants to recover money and is preparing to raise an action in the Court of Session.

The Wishaw firm’s Donna-Marie Gray said it represents more than 600 members of Unison, the GMB and Unite including cleaners, kitchen assistants and janitors.

For years many thousands of council workers across Scotland have been involved in cash battles amid claims that pay was historically less favourable to women.

Ms Gray said workers who got independent lawyers to take up their cases have had much more favourable outcomes than those who relied on their union.

She said: “The highest award I have heard of is £80,000 for a cleaner while others in the same job had to settle for as little as £10,000.”

Colleague Alison-Kelly Martin said: “The case we have built against Unison and others is substantial. We have no doubt it will meet the legal standards applicable should we have to proceed to court.”

DM Legal singled out the GMB for criticism two years ago when Ms Gray branded its equal pay settlements “disgraceful” and warned members were prepared to sue their own union.

Faced with a renewed attack, a GMB spokesperson said: “Needless to say we refute these claims and we will confront any action against us should any be forthcoming.”

Last year the GMB announced a settlement in principle with North Lanarkshire Council involving 200 cases.

Fresh talks had been held with Councillor Jim Logue who had just taken over as council leader and said he was keen to resolve the equal pay issue.

At that time Councillor Logue said: “This is a major milestone. We have negotiated in a sensible and constructive manner with the GMB and its legal advisers to reach agreement.”

GMB Scotland organiser Hazel Nolan said “significant” awards had been secured for her members, adding: “The new council leadership recognised the need to resolve this inequality and their willingness to work with us in negotiating a proper settlement means our members are at last getting justice.”

Neither Unison nor Unite had responded to a request for comment before the Times & Speaker went to press last night.

Ms Gray admitted that, while the threat of legal action had been made two years ago, no court proceedings have yet commenced, but she insisted this will happen soon unless the unions are prepared to pay up.

She said: “We have been working on this for the last two years. Our clients are people who have worked hard all their lives.

“They showed loyalty to stick with the unions through this, but the claims weren’t investigated soon enough and as a result they were getting payments of £10,000 when others who went to lawyers got four or five times that.”