Thousands of female Birmingham City Council staff could receive a share of up to £600m in compensation after winning an equal pay employment tribunal case.
Up to 5,000 female workers, including cleaners, care assistants and cooks, brought the case against the council after they were not paid bonuses that were offered to male refuse collectors, allowing the men to earn more than £50,000 a year.
The tribunal found these bonuses were discriminatory because it was rewarding male workers for doing their jobs properly.
Lawyers representing the female staff said the council could now have to pay more than £600m in compensation, the Daily Telegraph has reported.
But Unison and the GMB unions said the pay-out could be in the region of £30m. Unison added that the solicitor’s figure of £600m was “mad”, according to the BBC.
The public sector union said it was difficult to calculate what the council would have to pay out as a result of the tribunal, as the figure would have to be calculated on an individual basis depending on factors including length of service and whether they were full- or part-time workers.
The bonus payments allowed male refuse staff to receive up to 160% of their basic pay.
One year, a Birmingham refuse collector was able to take home £51,000, while women on the same pay grade received less than £12,000.
Councillor Alan Rudge, cabinet member for equalities and human resources at Birmingham City Council, said the case related to an “outdated” pay structure and the local authority had introduced a revised pay and grading structure that was in line with the Equal Opportunity Commission equality guidelines.
He added: “It is too early to determine financial implications and currently consideration is being given as to whether there are grounds for appeal on any aspects of the decision.”
Paul Doran, of Stefan Cross Solicitors, said: “The fact that Birmingham City Council simply failed to acknowledge it had a problem should act as a warning to other local authorities who continue to deny their female employees their basic rights.”