Pay saga nearly at an end as settlement has been reached

North Lanarkshire Council has agreed a deal with over 4,000 employees
North Lanarkshire Council has agreed a deal with over 4,000 employees

More than 4,000 female North Lanarkshire Council workers have reached a settlement in their decade-long fight for equal pay.

A special meeting of the full council approved the result of negotiations with Fox and Partners, Action 4 Equality (Scotland) Ltd and Unison.

Having already reached a deal with around 6,000 employees, this is the second wave of claims the council has agreed, meaning just a few hundred employees have cases outstanding.

Those not covered are the Equal Value cases of clerical workers and classroom assistants for the period before 2007, known as the First Wave period.

These 350 cases are going to an EV Remedies Hearing due to take place at Glasgow Employment Tribunal on April 20.

Last time the council went to the tribunal things didn’t go its way as it was ruled there is no discretion in law to vary the judicial rate of eight per cent interest.

It is anticipated settlement offers will be sent out to these claimants early next month.

Council leader Jim McCabe said: “I have fought all of my life for equality and that is why I instructed officials to enter negotiations last year with a view to settling claims where that was appropriate.

“I am pleased that this issue – which has been complex and challenging for all concerned – can now be dealt with.”

Stefan Cross QC, of Action 4 Equality (Scotland), added: “This summer sees the 10th anniversary of equal pay cases in Scotland.

“It is now time for all councils to follow the lead of North Lanarkshire and enter constructive discussions.”

Carol Fox, of Fox and Partners, who represented around 3,200 of the claimants, hopes such legal action will not be needed again.

She said: “This settlement means we can bring the second wave litigation to an end. We have also secured agreement from the council that further evaluations of male and female jobs will be undertaken to avoid the need for further litigation.

“It has not been easy but I am pleased to have made our contribution to advancing equality in North Lanarkshire.

“We call upon all Scottish councils with outstanding equal pay cases to review their litigation strategy and to engage in constructive settlement discussions.”

John Mooney, of Unison, added: “This is really good news for women providing valued public services to local people.

“Being recognised and valued helps us do the work we do. So it’s good for us, good for the council and good for the people we serve. It’s been a long process.”

Councillor David Stocks, the council’s SNP group leader, also welcomed the deal, but was angered councillors weren’t given more information.

He said: “This matter has dragged on for 10 years and it required a strong trade union public campaign to embarrass this Labour-run council into this stage of settlement.

“It also required vigorous representations in the council chamber from the SNP regarding the culture of secrecy and gagging of councillors, and even an SNP walk-out protest to help achieve traction.

“At Thursday’s full meeting of the council, councillors were issued with top-secret papers and allowed 15 minutes to digest complex material before it was whipped away by officials.

“I was amazed that when questions were invited on these previously unseen secret papers there were no questions asked by the 30-odd Labour councillors present, although the SNP and independents asked plenty in the one-hour question session.

“Labour seemed to be gagged as a political group and this is not healthy.

“The cost in legal fees for the council runs into millions of pounds with extra cash laid aside for outstanding cases.

“There will be further job re-evaluations for non-claimants, both male and female, with possible pay-back for five years.

“The secrecy seems to be continuing for these remaining matters and the SNP has asked, as a minimum, that the working group dealing with remaining equal pay claims must issue regular reports to the other councillors.”