Bolton Council forced to borrow £8m to meet bill for equal pay settlements

Bolton Council is being forced to borrow up to £8m to cover equal pay settlements – and is still facing legal action from trade unions, Personnel Today has learned.

More than 2,000 council workers, mostly women, are due to receive cheques for up to £8,000 each after the local authority became the latest casualty in the escalating equal pay crisis.

Cleaners and school attendants were among 400 employees who received payouts last week as compensation for up to six years’ back pay.

The council has no way of footing the bill other than taking out a huge loan in a bid to settle with workers before the equal pay deadline in April.

However, the Unison and GMB unions are not satisfied with the deal, and are advising members not to accept it.

Ray Short, regional head of local government at Unison, told Personnel Today: “The council is asking workers to sign away their legal rights to a full pay settlement.

“The pay structures the council is using are outdated and could deprive our members of earnings.

“We want to make a legal case on their behalf and ensure they are able to make an informed choice.”

Phil Roberts, GMB branch secretary, added: “The council negotiations were never completed, so there are ­people who may be entitled to more than they have been offered. We still have concerns about a number of inequalities.”

A Bolton Council spokeswoman said the council was offering employees the compensation in line with a nationally agreed approach. “The compensation will cost the council between £6m and £8m,” she said. “This will be funded through a loan that will be repaid over several years.”

The council would not reveal the source of the loan.

Local Government Empl­oyers, the umbrella group for council pay negotiations, estimates the cost of equality cases could reach £5bn in the next few years.

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