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Dundee Council accused of ‘head in sand’ approach to equal pay battle with women workers

Helen Meldrum told councillors they had their head in the sand
Helen Meldrum told councillors they had their head in the sand

Councillors were told on Monday that Dundee City Council has its “head in the sand” over an equal pay battle with women workers.

Testimony from support staff at Kingspark Primary was shared with councillors, with emotional accounts of unequal pay.

Women employed by Dundee City Council have lost out on thousands of pounds and are discriminated against “every day” according to the trade union GMB Scotland.

Trade union leaders representing female employees have hit out at their treatment by the local authority.

In a strongly worded letter to the leader of the city council, John Alexander, GMB rep Helen Meldrum claimed: “Your responses thus far unfortunately fail to acknowledge the extent of the discrimination that women who work in your city and across Tayside face.

Helen Meldrum. . Mhairi Edwards/DCT Media

“Women have lost out on family time and time for recreation, some have had to work multiple jobs and have had to work twice as hard as men who have been paid significantly more for turning up to work.

“This cannot be right or a legacy you wish to leave behind when it is within your gift to fix this.”

The union believes the consolidation of the living wage was something that could and should have been delivered much earlier.

She said: “GMB proposed an option that would have benefited workers more that was not considered due to ‘cost’, all the while men are being paid huge bonuses and women continue to be discriminated against every day.”

This letter was followed by comments from Ms Meldrum at a meeting of Dundee City Council on Monday, where she said the council had its “head in the sand” over the issue.

She asked councillors whether they or council officers are in charge as she urged them to resolve the battle fairly.

Ms Meldrum said GMB Scotland has four main  ongoing objectives and grievances:
• Compensation for lost earnings as a result of the discriminatory bonus system
• Ending discriminatory pay policies throughout Dundee City Council and it’s ALEOS
• Proper value of all employees’ work through a thorough job re-evaluation process
• Deliver pay justice for women by raising standards not by cutting pay or services

She added: “For months now GMB Scotland has warned Dundee City Council it is presiding over a discriminatory pay policy and facing a potential liability of tens of millions of pounds in wages owed to low-paid women workers.

“Workers affected will never get the time back that they’ve worked, but they can get what they are owed through the recognition of this discrimination and proper value for the vital work they do for all of us. That’s what GMB is fighting for.”

John Alexander, leader of Dundee City Council.

In written testimony, council workers at Kingspark Primary shared the impact of unequal pay.

Support worker Angela said: “For me it would have meant a better quality of life rather than working to pay bills and take on a second job for such things as buying new clothes; having a holiday; buying Christmas presents; not having to watch how many baths I have had as I can’t afford to put more gas in the meter.

“Right now I work to pay bills and to survive on what little I have left at the end of the month.

“Our job is a really hard hands-on job, your physical and mentally exhausted at 3pm but you [have] to rush home, get changed and go to your second job where some of us are working until 10pm.”

‘Earning the same as the men each year would mean I am not mentally drained’

Another staff member added: “Earning the same as the men each year would mean I am not mentally drained or physically worrying about how I am going to be able to survive each month.

“I would be able to provide for my son knowing I won’t run out of food or gas and electric before the next pay day.

“I am struggling each month to live on the wages we are receiving just now.”

Council leader John Alexander said: “There is a clearly defined process which includes working through the roles which trade unions believe fall into this category.

“My understanding is that those details are yet to be fully set out and so, alongside all councillors from every party, I will continue to seek positive engagement, through officers, on any and all points being raised.

“Until there’s detail and clarity and the process moves forward, no one councillor will know what the potential outcome, extent of roles claimed or value or the overall claim is.

“What is certain, is that councillors want to ensure that where matters are potentially identified, they are rectified as swiftly as possible.”

A spokesman for Dundee City Council said: “We are fully engaging with the processes surrounding the Equal Pay Claim.”

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