For those have followed every twist and turn of the decade-long equal pay battle in Glasgow, it was common knowledge that any deal would end up costing the city fathers more than a song.
Now in what is one of Scotland’s biggest ever remortgaging drives, the country’s largest local authority has agreed to sell off some of its best known music, entertainment and sporting venues to foot the half a billion pound bill. Glasgow City Council yesterday approved plans to finance a £548 million equal pay claim from thousands of women stretching back more than a decade.
The council intends to sell off prized assets such as Glasgow Royal Concert Hall and the SEC Armadillo to a wholly owned arms-length company before leasing them back at commercial rates.
The firm, City Property Glasgow Investments LLP, is engaging lenders with the aim of refinancing a loan originally taken in 2010.
After the funding deal was approved by the council’s city administration committee, a group of female council workers staged celebrations outside Glasgow City Chambers, waving flags and brandishing placards that stated “We won!” and “Thank you Glasgow”.
The decision, which marked the end of a bitter, drawn-out 12-year fight, had already been agreed in principle with workers represented by Unison, GMB, Unite and others, with women claiming they were historically paid £3 an hour less than men in similarly graded roles. However, around 300 men who worked in janitorial roles are also part of the claim.
In all, around 16,000 claimants who worked in the likes of the care, catering and cleaning sectors will start receiving payments as of June. It includes many who have retired since the acrimonious equal pay battle began.
The cost to the council stands to be considerably higher. Its plan to take out long-term loans against the value of the venues is expected to cost around £25m per annum for “years to come”.
However, Susan Aitken, the leader of the council, drew a distinction between the price the city would have to meet and the value of the settlement. She described it as a deal that delivered “pay justice” for thousands of workers,
Ms Aitken said she hoped service reforms and partnerships would help meet the costs.
She said: “I’m delighted to have won backing for a deal that finally delivers pay justice for thousands of women in our workforce.
“When I became council leader in 2017, I promised I’d bring to an end more than a decade of inaction on equal pay.
“A year ago, we began negotiations and, today, the council formally agreed a plan to pay women at Glasgow City Council what they are owed.”
Ms Aitken added: “That starts to put right a wrong that has damaged the council, its workforce and the city for too long.”
The council stressed the buildings would remain in the city’s ownership and said “users will not see any difference in how they access them”.
While discussions with potential funders are ongoing, the council expects other properties, including the Emirates Arena, Riverside Museum and Scotstoun Leisure Centre, to be among those sold to City Property.