10 June 2009
UNISON, Scotland's largest local government union, has called on SNP Finance Secretary John Swinney to face up to the challenge of pay discrimination. The union’s move follows the publication of the latest Scottish Parliament investigation into equal pay, in which MSPs on the Parliament's Local Government Committee expressed dismay at the slow and costly progress towards pay equality and made a clear call for action by the Scottish Government.
Peter Hunter, UNISON Scotland Regional Organiser, said:
"The Scottish Government has sat on the sidelines throughout this process but the time has come for them to step up to the plate. This is the third parliamentary report calling for Government action on equal pay and the challenge can no longer be ignored."
Equal pay is widely recognised as the greatest destabilising force to hit local government finance in recent years. Despite compensation payments running to several hundred million pounds, low paid public service workers are still pursuing tens of thousands of equality claims.
Peter Hunter said:
"There was no financial provision for equal pay in the last SNP budget but the evidence of the last ten years shows that delay and denial only escalate equal pay costs. In England councils have access to special Treasury rules on capital expenditure to ease the equal pay burden. In Scotland we have had no meaningful government help – in fact employers are hounded for cuts and efficiencies at a time when record levels of compensation are being paid to workers."
UNISON Scotland welcomed the Committee’s recognition that single status is still work in progress in every local authority.
"Anyone who says otherwise is out of touch and misleading the public," said Peter Hunter. "UNISON rejected over 80% of the new pay systems on equality grounds and we will continue to litigate until we get genuine pay equality for our members."
Peter Hunter added:
"What people need to remember is that every million pounds of equal pay expenditure is a million pounds of hardship and suffering endured by low paid women who deliver vital public services. We have classroom assistants who teach disabled children 30 hours per week with no supervising teacher for £10,000 per annum. And that’s before tax and national insurance. Voters expect the Scottish Parliament to protect them from such rank injustice. It seems the Local Government Committee agrees. It’s time for the Scottish Government to take action now."
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
Local Government Committee report on Equal pay
The Local Government & Communities committee of the Scottish Parliament made the following recommendations:
• The Scottish Government should facilitate urgent talks
• Employers should pay-up where workers have a strong equal pay claim
• Independent pay audits should be conducted annually to drive discrimination out of the system
• Councils need more money and the Government need to come up with a package including capitalisation
UNISON's submission to Local Government Committee
In submissions to the Committee UNISON Scotland called on MSPs to:
• Press the Finance Secretary to reconsider the funding required to close the pay gap. The Committee has called on the Government to clarify their position.
• Press the Finance Secretary to establish capitalisation as a finance option and set out criteria against which applications can be made. The Committee has echoed that call.
• Press the Chancellor and the Finance Secretary to permit local authorities to offset equal pay costs, in whole or in part, against their share of any efficiency target. We are extremely disappointed that councils appear to be expected to increase seconding on equal pay while slashing services at the same time.
• Set a timetable for local government to implement single status in a way that eliminates discrimination and brings the repeated rounds of equal pay compensation to an end. The committee has called on the Government to facilitate talks designed to deliver pay equality.
• Invite Audit Scotland to review its Audit Methodology in a way that gives equality auditing the weight that is required by the Best Value regime. UNISON are delighted that the Committee has called for a new equality audit system to embedded into Audit Scotland’s revised Best Value scheme.
You can find the full UNISON Scotland Submission to the Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee in March 2009 at
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