Councils set to face legal action over pay inequality

Local authorities are to face a series of legal challenges over inequality between male and female pay.

The move comes after unions lost patience with local authorities’ inability to address the issue by revising pay structures. Councils say they are unable to foot the massive cost of doing this.

Three years ago, the GMB, the Transport and General Workers Union and Unison agreed to delay legal action to give councils time to come up with a solution.

But a study published last week by employment analyst Industrial Relations Services shows just 7 per cent of councils have carried out a job evaluation exercise, the first concrete step to ensure male and female manual workers are paid the same for comparable jobs.

Jack Dromey, national organiser for the TGWU, said not enough progress has been made. His union is preparing to take cases against four local authorities in the autumn. Unison has “half a dozen” lined up.

Larger authorities claim that funding the changes, agreed between the councils and unions in July 1997, will cost them around £6m – a cost they are unable to finance. The changes, if implemented, would affect 1.2 million employees.

Rita Sammons, head of personnel and training at Hampshire County Council, said large authorities like Hampshire simply cannot afford to fund the changes.

Head of local government at Unison Malcolm Wing said, “We are not going to target those that really are making an effort, but some local authorities are simply playing games.”

Earlier this year 351 speech therapists reached a deal expected to cost the NHS £12m following a test case. The speech therapists argued they were entitled to the same level of pay as pharmacists, which is traditionally a male-dominated profession.

Cases have also been brought by groups of council employees including school dinner ladies and cooks.

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