Shocked low-paid Fife Council workers have been accused of bringing the local authority to the brink of bankruptcy by pursuing equal pay claims.
Some employees fearing the threat of redundancy in the wake of unprecedented financial challenges have blamed their colleagues after the council was hit with a £50 million bill to settle the dispute.
Now horrified union officials have stepped in to defend the claimants, pointing out the mainly female workers are entitled to the pay-outs after years of discrimination.
Debbie Thompson, secretary of the Fife branch of public services workers’ union Unison, said: “It’s the council’s fault this situation has arisen but the blame is being put on people who have been discriminated against for years.
“That’s just not right.”
She also criticised council leader David Ross who she said had appeared to suggest the workers involved had contributed to the authority’s financial woes.
Mr Ross denied that, stating the employees were entitled to their equal pay claim but that the timing of the settlement had been unfortunate given other pressures.
Mrs Thompson said: “The impression has been given that those who have been entitled to equal pay are going to contribute to the downfall of the council. That is nonsense.
“This is money they should have been paid already. These predominantly female workers have been paid less than they should have been for years and what they are now getting is back money.”
The union worker said many of the people concerned felt they were being looked on as the ones who were breaking the bank.
“They are upset by that because there are comments coming from colleagues working in other areas saying ‘Am I going to be made redundant because of that?’
“It’s causing quite a bit of distress and I will be speaking to the administration about comments made by them as well.
“It’s not our members’ fault this situation has arisen.
“We’re talking about some of the lowest paid people in the council, who are taking home the local authority living wage of £7.95 per hour.”
Mr Ross said Fife Council had always recognised the equal pay claim needed to be sorted out and agreed staff were entitled to the money.
“The timing and the scale of the settlement are unfortunate in terms of the other things happening with the council’s finances but there is absolutely no suggestion it’s the fault of these employees,” he said.