Workers’ anger over equal pay row settlements
There was anger last week when UNISON members fighting equal pay claims received their settlement offers from South Lanarkshire Council.
The workers in mostly traditional female jobs were due compensation for being paid less than workers in traditional male jobs requiring the same level of skill.
Around 3000 workers represented by solicitors Fox and Partners, Stefan Cross QC and Action 4 Equality Scotland Ltd already had their claims settled at a cost of £ 70 million in February last year.
In May this year South Lanarkshire agreed a settlement of between £10m and £12m for 2500 to 3000 outstanding equal pay claimants – including approximately 1000 represented by trade union UNISON, and offers were sent to claimants this week.
However many of the UNISON claimants say the Fox and Cross claimants got double or triple what they have been offered.
Confidentiality clauses in the Fox and Cross agreement prevent UNISON or anyone else seeing the exact terms of what those workers were paid.
But, having spoken to their colleagues, several workers say there is a significant difference in the claims offered.
One carer told the Reformer’s sister paper, the Hamilton Advertiser: “The offers are two or three times less than those from Fox and Cross.
“When the offers came out from Fox and Cross everybody was delighted. They were doing cartwheels.
“I was expecting at least double what I have got.”
Another worker, who also spoke to the Advertiser, feels UNISON members would have been much better off pursuing equal pay with a private solicitor rather than the union.
The support worker said: “What I got was about £8000 short – it is the unequal equal pay settlement.
“If anything like this happened in the future I would advise people to go straight to Fox solicitors rather than the union.”
A home carer contacted us to say she wanted the case to go through a full employment tribunal in a bid to get the money she believes she and other workers are due.
She intends to write to Thompsons solicitors, who dealt with the settlement on behalf of UNISON, to have her claim looked at again.
She said: “I really want it to go to tribunal, although I know that could mean we could lose what we have already got.”
Margaret Gallacher, who is chairperson of the South Lanarkshire branch of UNISON says their settlement was agreed on the same basis as other settlements, and are asking members to contact Thompsons if they believe their claim has been miscalculated.
She said: “In relation to parity with previous claimants the council agreed and published in their minutes that the settlement discussions with the trade unions and other parties would be progressed and concluded on the same basis.
“Obviously as UNISON members ourselves we fight to get the best deal for our members and although we have no reason to believe that any party to our agreement has not acted in good faith we did agree a verification process with our lawyers and the Council.
“Members who think their offer has not been calculated correctly must contact Thompsons as the first step in that process.”
South Lanarkshire Council insist the offers are appropriate and say differences can be attributed to a number of factors including when claims were lodged.
Money can only be claimed back for five years before the date the claim was lodged so workers whose claims were lodged later will be due less money.
However several workers who spoke to the Reformer insist that they are comparing their UNISON offers with like for like Fox and Cross offers, and that there is a significant difference.
Paul Manning, Executive Director of Finance and Corporate Resources at South Lanarkshire Council said: “When the Fox and Partners settlement was reached last year we said that any further claims that were made would be dealt with appropriately.
“We have now reached an agreement with Unison, whose lawyers are recommending acceptance of an offer to their claimants.
“It is anticipated this will also form the basis of a settlement with other groups of outstanding valid claimants. The detail of individual settlements is confidential but the size of offers will depend on a number of factors, including when claims were made.”
Row Equal pay continues to cause anger