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Date: Fri 5 October 2007

Unhappy Birthday for Highland Council Equal Pay Claimants

UNISON, the public service union, is to take its campaign for pay equality direct to decision makers at Highland Council. Highland Council agreed to offer compensation to large numbers of their low paid women -workers who had been excluded from receiving bonus payments unlike their male comparators paid on the same grades.

In receiving compensation, each worker had to sign an agreement waiving their rights to bring claims to the Employment Tribunal (ET). However, these agreements expired on the 30 September 2006.

A year on, the council has still to address the direct discrimination against these and other workers and is still paying bonus to men but not to large numbers of women on the same grade. A new pay and grading scheme is also still awaited as part of the Single Status Agreement.

Liz MacKay, Branch Secretary of UNISON Highland Branch said "UNISON was able to increase the level of compensation paid to many of our members and provided advice at all the signing sessions held by Highland Council. However, it is extremely disappointing that a year on, the discrimination which caused the council to pay out millions of pounds to low paid women workers still exists. This situation is simply not acceptable to UNISON so we're taking our campaign directly to councillors, and in particular, the council administration in a bid to get the issue addressed."

Regional Organiser for UNISON in the Highlands, Ken Matthews said, "UNISON has lodged hundreds of equal pay claims on behalf of a wide range of members at ET. Every week, we're lodging further claims on behalf of existing and indeed, new members. Our strategy has been consistently to try to negotiate a settlement on equal pay, but to use legal action if the negotiations don't succeed. We are therefore calling on the councillors, and the administration to meet with UNISON so we can get this resolved. Our members are not prepared to wait any longer than they have to for pay that they are owed. These low paid women are effectively subsidising the council. Let's be clear, if we don't get a negotiated agreement, we will continue to pursue the council through the courts".

UNISON has participated in talks between Highland Council and trades unions over a new single status agreement. Formal proposals are still awaited from the council on a new pay and grading scheme.

UNISON is calling on councillors to meet the union in order to seek a negotiated agreement on the settling of equal pay claims and on a new pay and grading scheme.


Notes for Editors: Councils across Scotland are signatories to the Scottish Joint Council Single Status Agreement. Some councils, including Moray and Aberdeenshire have reached agreement on Single Status. Equal Pay claimants are able to claim up to five years compensation against an employer.

For Further Information Please Contact: Liz MacKay, Highland Branch Secretary (01463) 715891 (w) 07879 034546 (m) Ken Matthews, Regional Organiser 07904 342061 (m)