UNISON City of Edinburgh Branch





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Date: 30 December 2005

UNISON takes action to protect low paid after council tries to sidestep equal pay laws

The Edinburgh Branch of UNISON, the public service union, has lodged 1,700 equal pay claims to protect low paid staff from Edinburgh Council's proposals to outsource jobs to avoid equal pay legislation.

The union has lodged claims with the council covering staff in catering, social and domiciliary care and cleaning posts.

"It is shameful that rather than cough up equal pay, the council is side-stepping the law by selling off these low paid jobs. That means that people who should have benefited from an equal pay structure will now find their jobs - and the essential services they provide - put out to the lowest bidder", said John Stevenson, UNISON Edinburgh Branch Secretary.

Equal pay comes into force if jobs predominantly done by women (for example home helps) are of equal value to other higher paid jobs done mainly by men. The council hopes to avoid paying fair wages by farming the jobs out to companies where there are no such comparisons. However, the council would still be liable for back pay compensation for up to five years.

"The council has failed to enter talks while UNISON was trying to get a sensible negotiated settlement rather than staff having to go through long legal claims and service being put at risk. This would have benefited both staff and the council. Now, if the jobs are to be sold off, we have no alternative but to ensure each and every one of these 1,700 claims is pursued for full back payments from the council. That could cost the council millions of pounds more than it needed to", added Mr Stevenson.

"This is a problem of the council's own making. UNISON has been trying to get the national agreement implemented for years but the council has dragged its heels for so long that the costs have grown. The council has known for years that it was not paying equal pay (eg. www.unison-edinburgh.org.uk/news/archive/110803.html).

"We wanted to work with the council to demand the Scottish Executive makes the funding available like they did in the NHS but this kind of cynical action makes that very difficult.

"Over the last ten years, the council has run best value reviews on its essential services. In every case independently scrutinised reviews have shown the in-house services provide best value. It is obvious that outsourcing these services means the council is no longer interested in best value. It only wants 'cheapest is best", added Mr Stevenson.

"This is all the more astonishing when you look at how NHS services are only now beginning to get back to cleanliness standards as privatised service are brought back in-house or staff are paid on decent terms."


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