Local authorities, trade unions and lawyers need to hold urgent discussions on how to deal with equal pay in local government, according to a report published today by the Local Government and Communities committee.
Although an agreement called “Single Status” was reached in 1999, this has still not been implemented across all local authorities. The committee is deeply concerned by the current 35,000 equal pay cases lodged with tribunals with no resolution in sight. The Equal Pay in Local Government Report is therefore urging all parties to seek a negotiated settlement where possible and ease the bottleneck of cases.
Committee Convener Duncan McNeil MSP said: “Quite frankly, the delays in implementing ‘Single Status’ are unacceptable and many of the problems we’re dealing with today could have been avoided through earlier resolution. The current litigious situation is most regrettable. It has created caution in all parties that serves no-one well, least of all the claimants, who are mostly low-paid, female workers. While we recognise it is difficult, we firmly believe that every effort should be made to reach a negotiated settlement.”
The committee recommended:
- The Scottish Government should facilitate talks between all relevant parties.
- Strong cases in the system, where the main issue is not over whether discrimination has occurred but the level of compensation, should be settled now.
- Work should be done now to help stop more cases arising in the future, such as having an independent assessment of local authority pay and grading arrangements.
- Annual equal pay audits carried out in local authorities.
- Clarification from the Scottish Government over the timescale and operation of a scheme to help local authorities meet their equal-pay liabilities.
Single Status was an agreement between local authorities and unions made in 1999 to harmonise manual and non-manual workers’ terms and conditions. Each local authority had to implement this on an individual basis and, to date, not all authorities have done so. In the intervening period, there have been a number of legal rulings which have impacted on equal pay and these, together with the delays, have led to a large number of individual employees lodging an equal-pay case with employment tribunals.