Equal pay crisis could lead more councils to threaten mass sackings in bid to address equal pay crisis

More councils are likely to take the “drastic” step of threatening mass sackings as they reach desperation point on equal pay negotiations, an expert has warned.

Birmingham City Council this week issued more than 40,000 redundancy notices in its bid to draw a line under unequal salary structures. The Midlands authority is using the ploy to force workers to accept new pay deals and end potentially costly discrimination.

But John Sutcliffe, principal strategy adviser at the Local Government Employers (LGE) body, told Personnel Today that several other councils may follow this high-risk strategy.

“The LGE has been aware for a while that one or two larger local authorities have been feeling the end of the line on meaningful negotiations,” he said. “Birmingham has made a very significant action. Other authorities may now be encouraged to follow.”

Sutcliffe warned councils to tread carefully when issuing mass redundancies, as such a policy could have unexpected outcomes.

“It is a very drastic option,” he said. “It may well not be as straightforward as you expect it to be as you are bound to antagonise some groups of employees.”

Birmingham City Council claims that more than four in five workers will be offered higher pay under their new standardised contracts. But up to 7,000 people could face a lower salary.

The LGE has estimated that the equal pay crisis – all staff had to receive equal pay for work of equal value from 31 March this year – could cost up to £5bn.

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