Fight for equal pay results in landmark win


Female school workers in Scotland have won a landmark case over equal pay after a seven-year struggle.

The 251 women, including classroom assistants, learning assistants and nursery nurses, brought the test case against Dumfries and Galloway Council, which lost at the Supreme Court, the UK’s highest court, last week.

They had originally been through an employment tribunal, a tribunal appeal and the Court of Session in Edinburgh.  

One of the women, Elaine North, 51, a learning assistant working with children with additional needs, said: “This decision means equality for women, equal pay, getting what we deserve and what we’re entitled to. We’ve been fighting for this for seven years.”

Public sector union Unison said more than 2,000 women would now pursue claims for several years’ worth of bonuses.

Ms North added: “We were watching it (the Supreme Court video link) live in the UNISON office … it was absolutely fantastic. Equal pay came in the 1970s – it’s 2013 and we’re still having to fight for it. This is another step forward for women of my generation, and for my granddaughters as well.”

The Supreme Court established that a man and a woman doing work of equal value and for the same employer are entitled to the same terms and conditions, even if they are working in different premises.

It stopped short of saying the women must be compensated but clarified a point of law and the case now goes back to the employment tribunal.

The women argued they had been refused bonuses given to workers in jobs mainly done by men, such as groundsmen, drivers, refuse collectors and leisure attendants. Unison said 20 other UK councils had joined Dumfries and Galloway in arguing their case at the Supreme Court.

Dumfries and Galloway admitted the decision would affect the whole of Scotland.

“The appellants, including classroom assistants and nursery nurses, now have won the right to have their jobs compared to those of male manual workers, such as road workers and groundsmen,” a council spokesman said.

“This judgement has implications for local authorities and other public bodies.

“Our council will consider its position in response to the Supreme Court judgement.”

Dave Prentis, general-secretary of UNISON, said: “I am delighted that the Supreme Court has ruled in favour of our women members. It is a shame, though, that they have had to go through this process and endure a seven-year wait just to get equal pay.

“Dumfries and Galloway Council should take immediate steps to correct their pay and I urge other councils to follow suit. We have nearly 2,000 cases on hold, waiting for this judgement.


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