Work­ers’ anger over equal pay row set­tle­ments

Rutherglen Reformer - - News - Julie Gil­bert

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

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