Speaking after the launch of the party’s Women’s Manifesto on Wednesday, Mr Sarwar said although he wasn’t personally responsible for a pay gap for employees of Glasgow City Council, which saw some people working in traditionally female-dominated roles such as catering or home care paid up to £3 an hour less than male-dominated jobs such as refuse workers or gardeners – he admitted there were issues which “we didn’t get right”.
In the manifesto, Scottish Labour pledged to implement statutory gender pay reviews across the Scottish public sector – as well as private companies, with over 250 employees who benefit from public procurement – and said it would provide one-off central funds to pay for historical equal pay claims.
Two years ago, the council agreed to pay out a reported £548 million to compensate the thousands of women employed by the council for the money they should have been paid – in many cases going back to 2007 when the new job evaluation scheme was adopted.
The scheme had been supposed to ensure men and women received equal pay for jobs of the same value.
Mr Sarwar said: “It is undoubtedly the case that women across Scotland were let down around equal pay and, whilst I may not have been there in terms of making the decision or being in the position of power, that doesn’t mean I don’t recognise that there were issues that we didn’t get right.
"I don’t question the faith in which people made those decision at those times, but I think if they look with hindsight, it’s clear that justice was not done and we do have to right those wrong and those wrongs are not yet complete. That’s not just in Glasgow, that’s across the whole of Scotland.”
He added: “An important part of righting those wrongs is making sure we have equal pay across the public sector, but also in making sure we have equal pay across society more widely.”
Deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: “The pay review is a systematic approach to looking at equal pay to ensure that we are not allowing those anomalies to continue in future.”