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Date Thursday 9 November 2006

Equal Pay must be funded and the implementation agreed - UNISON

UNISON, Scotland's local government union, said today that lack of government funding was an important factor causing the slow rate of progress towards reaching agreements on Single Status, in Scotland's local authorities.

The union also condemned the unilateral imposition of proposals being attempted by a number of councils, and the refusal of some councils to develop proposals and divulge job evaluation details.

Carol Judge (UNISON's Scottish Organiser) said "Whilst local authorities are responsible for the detailed pay and grading proposals of their staff, government is responsible for delivering equal pay in the public sector and has accepted those responsibilities in health, education and other public services. We need a local government financial settlement that recognises these costs and for local authorities to recognise their responsibilities. It is time to deliver this long standing obligation and to ensure justice for low paid women.

"UNISON is focused on progressing agreements but it is the responsibility of local authorities to develop proposals. Too often councils are withholding vital job evaluation details - information which is essential for the trade unions if we are to negotiate the implementation of equal pay and build staff confidence. What have these authorities got to hide?

"In addition, some authorities are simply giving up any pretence of negotiation and rushing headlong to impose new pay and conditions on their staff. Sacking staff is never the appropriate response. These authorities should return to the negotiating table to resolve the outstanding issues.

UNISON is also concerned that recent Best Value reports by Audit Scotland do not reflect the seriousness of the problems identified by the 2006 Finance Committee report into Single Status. They have informed Audit Scotland that it ought to be more prominent in rectifying problems identified by the Committee.

Carol said "No-one wants lengthy disputes or to divert public resources to lawyers through litigation. The UK government's failure to put Equal Pay law on a sound statutory footing at the time of the Department of Employment 1993 review seriously undermined the ability of local government employers to accurately project the costs of equal pay during single status negotiations in 1999. Government must recognise this and local councils should stop macho posturing and sit down with unions to negotiate fair agreements that deliver equal pay to low paid women.

ENDS

Notes to editors: The current situation is:

* Only three councils have concluded an agreement (South Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire and Moray).
* A significant number of councils have made very little progress in developing proposals.
* Several authorities have presented final proposals. In these areas there are active negotiations or the proposals have been the subject of membership ballots. (Glasgow is among those currently balloting for industrial action).
* Falkirk Council has issued notices of dismissal and re-engagement to staff. North Lanarkshire has imposed their pay and grading scheme. Others have intimated that they will do the same.
* A large group of authorities are still developing proposals. This includes detailed discussions with the trade unions, mainly around the structure of the job evaluation scheme.

For Further Information Please Contact: Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 07715 583 729(m)

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