Edinburgh City Council agree settlement on equal pay dispute

Council Leader Andrew Burns. Picture: Kenny Smith
Council Leader Andrew Burns. Picture: Kenny Smith
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EDINBURGH City Council has agreed to bring an end to a bitter “equal pay” dispute which will see up to 3000 staff win huge compensation payments.

Back pay of up to £30,000 stretching over five years has been won by the group of employees after the local authority agreed to settle a host of outstanding cases.

The council had dragged the cases out more than eight years after they were supposed to have been settled under new legislation.

However the 3000 workers are expected to receive compensation payments within the next few months after a deal was reached with the public sector union Unison.

John Stevenson, president of the city council’s Unison branch, said: “We welcome the settlement of these long standing equal pay claims and we are delighted that many of our members will soon start receiving their compensation.

“Equal pay for work of equal value is an important principle – but we aim to ensure it happens in practice too.”

The latest move, which affects the likes of classroom assistants, clerical assistants and social care workers, came after the council lost a hearing at the Court of Session in November of last year.

The 400 workers affected by that ruling finally received their payments within weeks of the council decided in January not to take an appeal to the Supreme Court.

However the decision was expected to have a knock-on impact on other workers and the council was left grappling with a further 3000 cases, all of which have now been fully settled.

Although the value of those claims is not known, around £30 million was set aside by the council several years ago to handle the impact of legislation introduced in 1999 to harmonise pay and conditions for local government workers.

There were particular problems in Edinburgh because of complicated pay systems which saw workers in different posts, but doing similar jobs.

The council had already forked out around £44 million to cleaners, home carers and catering assistants who complained they were being unfairly treated compared to male workers.

Council leader Andrew Burns said: “We had a firm aim to resolve these claims before the end of the year and we are absolutely delighted to report that this has been achieved.”

Alastair Maclean, the council’s corporate director, added: “This is an excellent outcome for these employees and reflects a commitment from councillors, officers and trade union representatives to working in partnership.”

Workers could claim for compensation for up to five years of work if councils accepted they have been discriminated against, but any delay from the date a claim is made also had to be taken into account.

A joint statement issued by the council and Unison said: “The agreed settlement terms will take a number of months to implement fully and both the Council and UNISON are calling upon those affected to remain patient whilst arrangements are put in place.

“Payments will begin in the next couple of weeks and will be staggered over the coming three months.”

Edinburgh was the last council in Scotland to introduce a “single status” agreement to head off any further cases of discrimination, following a lengthy dispute with trade unions. Some 15,000 staff were warned they would lose their jobs if they did not accept new terms and conditions.