Union to fight council in court over equal pay failure

Fife Council's headquarters in Glenrothes
Fife Council's headquarters in Glenrothes

One of the country’s biggest trade unions is set to take legal action against Fife Council over its failure to honour equal pay settlements dating back two years.

GMB Scotland today (Monday) notified Fife Council leaders that it will start fresh legal proceedings against the local authority over the non-payment of equal pay settlements for over 60 female workers.

Trade union representatives and their legal affiliates have been pressing officials for months over the reasons for the failure to pay out claims as part of the second wave of equal pay in Fife Council, many of which were awarded over two years ago.

However, no confirmation has been forthcoming from council officials, meaning the claimants, mainly local home carers, cleaners and catering staff, are no nearer to receiving their compensation for years of inequality.

To date Fife Council has paid out an estimated £80 million in equal pay settlements to employees past and present.

Helen Meldrum, GMB Scotland organiser, said: “For reasons which Fife Council cannot seem to explain to us, over 60 women are still waiting on the award of their equal pay settlement.

“This is nearly two years after the finalisation of the second wave claims against Fife Council and we have been left with little choice but to reclaim what is owed to our members through the courts.

“In all likelihood the monies due to our members will amount to a few hundred thousand pounds; a drop in the ocean compared to the £80 million paid out in equal pay settlements by the council.

“These women take care of our elderly and vulnerable, keep our kids fed and their schools clean and it is absolutely shameful that after decades of discrimination, council bosses are still stalling on the delivery of pay justice.”

Sharon McKenzie, Head of HR, Fife Council, said: ‘‘Fife Council has worked diligently to resolve issues relating to settling claims and had not, until two weeks ago, been advised by the legal representatives of the GMB claimants that there were any outstanding issues.

‘‘We had been working with a solicitor at Thompsons who has subsequently left and this perhaps has resulted in difficulties. The last communication from Thompsons was some considerable months ago and it did not raise the issues currently being raised by the local branch.

As agreed, the local branch has now provided us with detail of the claims they have identified as outstanding and we are working through them to identify a resolution.

‘‘In terms of due process, we are obliged to communicate directly with GMB’s solicitors rather than the local branch and we would encourage the local branch to respect this so that there is a single point of contact for queries.

‘‘These issues relate to claims already with the tribunal and the solicitors acting for the GMB recently agreed that the cases be sisted for a further period during which we will look at any and all queries. There is therefore no need for “fresh legal action” as these cases are already with the tribunal and will be addressed in the next few days.