Equal pay time bomb 'could cost Scottish councils £1 billion'
FUTURE council tax freezes and front-line services are under threat because of a "financial time bomb" that could cost Scottish councils £1 billion, it was claimed yesterday.
A Holyrood committee was told that councils are "still dragging their heels" over implementing an equal pay agreement for staff.
As a result the number of unresolved employment tribunal disputes in Scotland has escalated and currently total 35,000 compared with 48,000 for the whole of England and Wales.
The agreement made in 1999 was meant to deal with the discrepancy between men's and women's pay, but a failure by individual councils to agree individual levels has meant that potential backpay has built up over the last decade.
Glyn Hawker, a Scottish Unison official, told MSPs that the backpay combined with the effect of the Bainbridge ruling – a legal ruling against councils in the north-east of England – last year which stated that women were discriminated against over pay protection meant that council liabilities in Scotland could total as much as 1 billion.
This was supported by GMB union's Alex McLuckie who estimated that each of the 35,000 claims will cost councils 10,000 each alone and the Bainbridge ruling will add 200 million.
On top of this there is an estimated 500 million cost Cosla has put on the overall equal pay agreement to be taken into account, even though in 1999 it was believed that it would be cost neutral.
Yesterday, union bosses called on MSPs on the local government committee to get a grip on the situation and force councils to finalise the equal pay. Mr McLuckie said: "Councils have a vested interest in dragging this out as long as possible."
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