Glasgow City Council has reached an agreement in principle to settle around 14,000 equal pay claims.
The agreement, confirmed on Thursday 17 January 2019, has been made with trade unions Unison, Unite and GMB as well as campaign group Action 4 Equality Scotland. It finalises the principles and structure of potential payouts, although Unison warns that negotiations are still ongoing and that it will still be months until individual cases are settled.
The agreement in principle is a result of negotiations held after around 8,000 GMB and Unison members undertook industrial action in October 2018. The strike related to a pay and benefits system introduced for Glasgow City Council employees more than a decade ago, which campaigners say led to staff in predominantly female-led roles, such as catering or cleaning, earning up to £3 an hour less than those in male-dominated jobs, such as refuse collection.
After two judgments against the council in the Court of Session, Glasgow City Council stated in January 2018 that it planned to settle around 12,000 claims. However, trade unions felt talks had stalled, which led to the strike action last October.
Yesterday, Glasgow City Council confirmed that payments would be made to claimants this calendar year, delivered during the next financial year.
Councillor Susan Aitken, leader at Glasgow City Council, 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.
“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.”
Before payments can be made to claimants, approval has to be sought from members of Glasgow City Council and claimants, while the process of raising the funding to meet the required costs also needs to be completed. Technical agreements will additionally need to be finalised, for example, around how and when money is paid to claimants.
The trade unions are currently in the process of preparing a report for Glasgow City Council’s administration, which sets out the calculations and proposed payment plan.
Dave Prentis, general secretary at Unison, added: “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.”
Hazel Nolan, organiser at GMB Scotland, 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 [working for] a wage, what [employees are] selling ultimately is [their] time and decades of systematic gender discrimination meant that women in Glasgow were forced to work longer hours for less.”
Wendy Dunsmore, regional industrial officer at Unite, said: “This is a day of celebration for the [staff at] Glasgow City Council who were unfairly treated and discriminated against. These [employees] 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.”