Cumbria County Council is considering massive cuts in services and increased charges to meet an equal pay claim from 3,000 of its female employees.
The council estimates it needs to find annual savings of about £10m to help meet the cost of the claims. Chief executive Peter Stybelski admitted “difficult decisions” would have to be made.
The equal pay claim was brought by female cleaners, cooks and care workers, who argued they were employed on less favourable terms than men doing equivalent work.
The council is appealing the tribunal’s decision. If the appeal fails, a hearing will be held to set the amount of compensation awarded.
Cumbria recently doubled the amount set aside to fund the claim to £15m but the final bill could be much higher. Trade unions representing staff have predicted as much as £50m.
In a separate development, thousands of workers at Scotland’s largest local authority are facing a three-year wage freeze to help fund a £60m equal pay deal. Management jobs at Glasgow City Council could also be axed to fund the agreement.
The council is in talks with trade unions over the restructuring of salaries for its 38,000 workers. A three-year wage freeze for about 5,000 people, mainly white-collar professionals and managers, is one of a number of options being considered by the council to deal with the equal pay bill.