Record equal pay claim could cost council £10m a year

Unison
has lodged the largest equal pay claim in Europe on behalf of nearly 1,000
teaching assistants in Lancashire.

The
claim could be worth nearly £10m a year in pay increases for the teaching
assistants.

The
union has lodged the claim with an employment tribunal in Manchester, but has
put the application on hold while Lancashire County Council attempts to
negotiate satisfactory gradings for its school support staff.

The
claim is on behalf of 990 teaching assistants of the 4,000 employed by the
authority, including nursery nurses, special support assistants, and learning
and classroom assistants.

Unison
national secretary for local government, Heather Wakefield said: "School
support staff are among the most undervalued in local government. These equal
pay claims demonstrate the need for local authorities to carry out urgent pay
audits and bring the pay structures in line with the Equal Pay Act.

"By
taking this case, Unison is demonstrating its commitment to attacking the
gender pay gap and we will pursue further cases on behalf of all groups of
women staff," she added.

The
Lancashire claim is based on expert advice that the school support staff are
employed to do work of equal value to the work of male comparators employed by
the council in its environment directorate.

School
support staff are among the lowest paid in the local government sector – 80 per
cent earn less than £8,000 per year.

In
local government, women earn on average 34 per cent less than their male
counterparts.

By Ben Willmott

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