Monday, 29 May 2017

How It All Began

Action 4 Equality Scotland burst on to the scene on 15 August 2005 after a BBC Scotland film crew travelled to Newcastle to explain the fight for equal pay that had been raging in the north east on England with Stefan Cross Solicitors leading the way.

Now the trade unions had been huffing, puffing and pontificating about equal pay for many years before AAES came along, but not once did they ever come close to blowing the council employer's house down.

And the reason A4ES has been such a great success is that we don't have any party political connections to the employers and so we don't pull our punches in dealing with the likes of Labour-run Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, and Fife Councils.

Unequal pay could cost councils

A recent campaign highlighted the issue of unequal pay

Local authorities in Scotland could face a bill of about £500m to settle backdated claims for equal pay from women workers in the public sector.

Councils in the north east of England have already paid £75m after claims involving 8,000 women workers.

In 1999 most councils in that region signed equal pay agreements but they failed to implement them.

The Action 4 Equality campaign, which has also won settlements at employment tribunals, is now heading to Scotland.

Legal action

Many north east councils offered compensation to all women employees who had been affected by unequal pay over the years.

Last month Newcastle City Council reached a settlement with trade unions which will benefit 2,800 workers, such as cleaners and care-at-home staff.

Gateshead, Durham City, Sunderland, South Tyneside and North Tyneside have also made multi-million pound payouts.

However, Action 4 Equality, an organisation linked to a firm of solicitors, said that workers could launch legal action against the councils.

It has already secured payouts of up to £34,000 for staff in Redcar and Cleveland.

The Scottish organiser of Action 4 Equality, Mark Irvine, estimated that 50,000 women workers in Scotland could claim.

He claims that if they got the same sort of settlements already paid in England, the bill could be more than £700m.

He told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme that talks with employers so far had proved unhelpful.

Mr Irvine said: "Negotiations between employers and the trade unions have been ongoing for several years and the best brains among them have failed to come up with a solution so far.

"If people want to settle equal pay claims, the best way to achieve that is to take direct action through the employment courts with the support of Action 4 Equality."

Equal value

Council employers said England had suffered from fast buck legal claims which could damage local government in Scotland.

Local authority body Cosla admitted there was a problem but said talks with unions was the best way to reach a solution.

President Pat Watters said: "The people who will get rich with this will not be the workers, but the lawyers negotiating the claims.

"Action 4 Equality is a not a charity organisation but is there to make money, 20% will be creamed off right away for the lawyers. What it is making right now off the backs of workers is millions of pounds."

Mr Watters estimated that the bill for local authorities in relation to pay claims would reach £500m.

He added that money to pay claims would have to come from council taxpayers unless the government stepped in to help out.

A claim under the Equal Pay Act 1970 may be made by either a woman or a man claiming equal pay with one or more comparators of the other sex.

He or she needs to show a difference in pay for doing "like work", "work rated as equivalent" or "work of equal value".