Raft of le­gal claims against city coun­cil dropped by work­ers

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Mike Lock­ley Staff Re­porter

AMASSIVE raft of le­gal claims by 100 Birm­ing­ham City Coun­cil work­ers – rang­ing from sex dis­crim­i­na­tion to equal pay – have been ditched.

The multi-mil­lion pound moun­tain of al­le­ga­tions were this week dis­missed by Birm­ing­ham Em­ploy­ment Tri­bunal af­ter Judge Find­lay re­vealed they have all been with­drawn by claimants.

Those claimants are more than 100 strong and cover eight sep­a­rate cases.

The claims, cov­er­ing sex dis­crim­i­na­tion, equal pay and the un­law­ful de­duc­tion of wages, were re­cently reg­is­tered at the tri­bunal at the same time.

In court, no rea­son for the U-turn was given and it is not known whether fi­nan­cial set­tle­ments have been made by the coun­cil.

But there is no doubt that the thorny is­sue of equal pay has, over the years, punched a huge hole in the coun­cil’s frag­ile fi­nances.

In the last decade alone, the be­lea­guered au­thor­ity has paid out a stag­ger­ing £1.1 bil­lion in set­tling claims.

To find that for­tune, the coun­cil has been forced to sell off ma­jor as­sets such as the NEC, ICC, NIA and Grand Cen­tral Shop­ping Cen­tre.

Even with those “jew­els” stripped from the port­fo­lio, the cash­strapped au­thor­ity needed huge loans that cur­rently cost £103 mil­lion a year.

Meet­ing that bill has dra­mat­i­cally eroded front­line ser­vices.

Last sum­mer’s bin strike seen as the spark for the firestorm of claims.

On the sur­face, it pre­sented res­i­dents with fly-in­fested streets piled high with pu­tri­fy­ing rub­bish.

But the hid­den, long-term ram­i­fi­ca­tions have hit tax­pay­ers even harder.

Equal pay lawyers were flooded by calls from dis­grun­tled staff, fu­ri­ous over re­ports of the £8.4 mil­lion bill paid for over­time and agency staff to clear the streets.

Even be­fore the in­dus­trial ac­tion, bonus, shift al­lowances, shorter hours and over­time paid to bin­men up to 2011, split the coun­cil work- is now cur­rent force. Staff, in­clud­ing care work­ers, pressed for pay par­ity and were vic­to­ri­ous in court.

Last July, Dar­ren Smith, of law firm Equal Pay Le­gal, said: “The bin strike has noth­ing to do with agency staff costs.

“It is about the coun­cil try­ing to rem­edy the rel­a­tive over­pay of bin­men as it is so keen to avoid a huge equal pay li­a­bil­ity.

“The coun­cil is ter­ri­fied of the huge li­a­bil­ity they have left the Birm­ing­ham tax pay­ers by not ad­dress­ing this is­sue prop­erly in 2011.”

This drew a re­but­tal coun­cil and unions.

A trade union source said: “This was all sorted out years ago. Our lawyers and coun­cil lawyers con­firmed the struc­ture agreed in 2011 was equal pay com­pli­ant.”

When asked to ex­plain why the moun­tain of claims had been with­drawn, a Birm­ing­ham City Coun­cil said sim­ply: “We are un­able to com­ment on em­ployee mat­ters.”

Le­gal firms in­volved in coun­cil equal pay dis­putes have not re­sponded to our re­quest for in­for­ma­tion. from the

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