More than a change to law needed to deliver equal pay

I think your portrayal of government ministers gallantly riding in on white chargers ready to legislate to solve the equal pay crisis (Personnel Today, 20 February) is a little exaggerated.

The challenge is to ensure we can deliver equal pay.

Common sense tells you that it requires being able to negotiate, compromise and phase out pay inequalities across a whole workforce rather than just litigate the interests of a few, as some would have us do.

The problem is that case law isn’t doing a great job of translating the individual right to equal pay into a collective, mass inequality setting, where affordability is plainly a real world issue but not a legal one. But the solution is not to seek to change the law to take away the rights of low-paid women council workers.

The straightforward facts are that women in local authorities are owed at least £3bn back pay (I put it nearer £5bn) and there is an ongoing pay bill cost of about 5% on average to establish equal pay. Even with compromises, both Treasury and council tax payers will have to fork out that’s what should be at the top of government’s in-tray.

Brian Strutton
National secretary for public services,
GMB

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