Hundreds of female Fife Council employees will share in a multi-million-pound windfall after unions revealed they had reached an equal pay settlement with the local authority.
Unison confirmed more than 1,400 women will now be properly recompensed for “historic discriminatory pay practices” within Fife Council, with compensation for Unison members’ dating back in some cases to 2006.
The deal is understood to be worth many millions of pounds and the prospect of a sizeable black hole in the council’s finances will give the local authority a major headache as it draws up its spending plans for the coming years.
Fife’s Labour administration is already facing a financial shortfall of around £21 million next year, rising to £77m by 2018-19, and has delayed publication of its draft budget until January.
Council leader David Ross welcomed the news the settlement was reached without the need for court action, saying the agreement is in the best interest of the council and its employees.
He added: “These claims have been ongoing for some considerable time and the legal processes involved have been complex. The fact that we have reached agreement without the need for legal proceedings has to be welcomed.
“There will no doubt be comparisons between Fife and other local authorities who are also dealing with equal pay claims.
“However, it’s important to note that no two cases are the same and the fact that we haven’t had to go through a court process means Fife’s outcome cannot be compared to others.”
But he conceded: “There will be significant cost to the council and we’re in the process of working through the fine detail which will lead to the final figures.
“Set against the existing budget gap of £77m over three years, this will make the development of our future budgets even more challenging.”
Dougie Black, Unison regional organiser, said the settlement had been a “long time coming”.
He added: “We will now discuss individual claims with the employer to ensure each claim is calculated properly.
“This a good day for low-paid women workers and Unison is proud to have been a part of it.”
Suzanne Craig, Unison’s legal officer, said the union will be seeking early payment from employers.
“Regrettably, it took the threat of proceeding to an employment tribunal to focus the employer’s minds to settle, but it is great news for everyone that we have agreed,” she said.
Unison members will receive individual letters outlining their settlement figures in due course.