Politicians want equal pay dispute resolved

MSP Alex Fergusson
MSP Alex Fergusson

Galloway MP Russell Brown has sought further detail from union representatives and ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) following concerns over Dumfries & Galloway Council employees not receiving an Equal Pay settlement.

Since 2006, UNISON and UNITE have been supporting members equal pay claims against Dumfries & Galloway Council. The Supreme Court has confirmed that women in certain jobs could make a claim for equal pay with male manual workers.

However, in recent weeks it has become clear that while some employees have received a settlement offer, a large number have not.

Mr Brown said: “A significant number of council staff contacted me about the Equal Pay claim that went through as an Employment Tribunal case, especially in view of the fact that some staff had been contacted about an offer. Just over two weeks ago I met with some staff in Stranraer and this was followed up with a meeting in Dumfries where over 40 staff attended.

“There was a mix of classroom assistants, special needs and additional support staff, as well as school secretarial staff and administrative assistants. It’s become clear that there is clear confusion over why some people have been made an offer and some have not.

“I have given a commitment to seek some answers so I have met with union representatives and I have also spoken with ACAS. ACAS have said that they are still prepared to look at some elements of this but cannot give any guarantee of success. The issue is complex because there appears to be some staff who would not qualify simply because they were not employed by the council over the period for which the claim was valid, but there are also individuals who thought that they were part of the claim. Indications are that every Trade Union member was written to on a number of occasions but not everyone replied, which is unfortunate, so claims weren’t made on their behalf.

“However, irrespective of this what does seem unfair is the fact the very early Equal Pay claims that were settled for catering staff, cleaners, and carers was paid to everyone as an offer was made by the council. Those who have had to take a case to court have had to make a claim and fight for any entitlement, which appears to have left those who were not named in the case as being excluded.”

“I understand the frustration of the many people who have contacted me over this issue and I intend to pass on any new information that I learn over the coming days.”

Last week at Parliamentary Question Time in Holyrood, Galloway MSP Alex Fergusson asked the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners’ Rights to intervene in the long running claim against Dumfries & Galloway Council on equal pay.

Speaking from the Scottish Parliament Mr Fergusson said: “I have been contacted by a number of classroom and special needs assistants who are understandably perplexed that colleagues have received notification from their Union that they will receive compensatory pay-outs ranging from a couple of hundred pounds to several thousand. Inevitably in a large rural area such as Dumfries & Galloway, many people did not hear about the possibility of a claim and now find that while their colleagues will be compensated they will not and, to make matters worse, they have been told by the Council that any further claims will be time-barred”.

“This may be correct from the legal point of view, but it is certainly not from a moral perspective. It is not fair and it is certainly not equal. I therefore asked the Cabinet Secretary what steps the Scottish Government can take to resolve the situation, and I am pleased that he has agreed to meet with me to discuss it”.

“Equal pay cannot just be for those lucky enough to hear about the claim – it must be for all or it isn’t equal. Nothing less will do”.