Unison Cymru is mounting a campaign of mass litigation to secure equal pay for underpaid women employed by local authorities in Wales.
The move by Wales’ largest trade union follows the expiry of the April 2007 deadline by which local governments across England, Wales and Scotland should have implemented equal pay salary structures for employees in accordance with the terms of a pay deal negotiated three years ago.
Although two of Wales’ 22 unitary local authorities, Neath Port Talbot and Torfaen, have paid out £11m in compensation to more than 4,000 women employees for past pay discrimination, Unison Cymru claims that they, along with other unitary local authorities, have not introduced equal pay salary structures.
Paul Elliott, head of local government for Unison Cymru, said: “This deadline has not been adhered to and so we have no alternative than to embark upon a programme of ‘mass litigation’ in cases that the union considers have reasonable prospects for success.”
He added that the union, which represents 95,000 public sector workers in Wales, including 52,000 employed in local government of whom 65% are female, is still trying to achieve negotiated settlements with local authorities.
Jon Sutcliffe, principal strategic adviser at Local Government Employers, an organisation representing local authorities, said that because the English local government sector is much larger than in Wales, there is less scope for collective action on equal pay.
He added: “That could change, but I don’t think the unions have the capacity to bring cases everywhere because it’s expensive and time consuming.”