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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 January 2008, 17:34 GMT
Lawyers 'are hampering equal pay'
Cleaners
Cleaners are among workers who will benefit from pay claims
Council bosses say no-win no-fee lawyers are making their work to give staff equal pay more difficult.

Pay reviews are taking place across many organisations to bring women's pay into line with male colleagues.

The Local Government Employers say the number of people taking their cases to lawyers is slowing down the process as many are taken to lengthy tribunals.

But lawyers insist they only get involved in cases when a client's agreement is not satisfactory.

The bill facing councils after the reviews is estimated at 2.8bn, with school staff making 29% of claims.

The LGE said cases taken on by no-win-no-fee lawyers slows down the system, as each case can proceed through the lengthy tribunal process before a settlement.

'Clogging up'

Jan Parkinson, managing director of the LGE said: "Councils have been hamstrung in their ability to deliver on equal pay agreements as no-win no-fee lawyers have been holding up the process for many years.

"No-win-no-fee lawyers have not served any useful purpose and instead have clogged up the tribunal system causing severe delays to claims and cost taxpayers more money in bureaucracy."

Local government is working hard to achieve equal pay more than half of all councils have achieved it, she added.

"Providing a fair settlement on equal pay remains an urgent issue for local councils who must act in the best interests of local tax payers as well as staff," she said.

It was being punished for choosing to reach a solution on equal pay rather than fighting each case through tribunals, she said.

She said: "There are similar problems in the NHS and civil service, where the decision has been made to fight cases all the way in tribunals rather than try and reach an agreement as we are doing.

"The situation in the private sector is completely hidden as they have no requirement to carry out pay assessments."

'Lawyer-bashing'

But solicitors disputed the LGE's standpoint.

David Wingate of WE Solicitors said: "In cases where a lawyer is paid a percentage of what is won, they are not going to get involved in a case unless they think there is a reasonable chance of getting a better settlement than is being offered."

Des Collins of Collins Solicitors added: "These changes were negotiated over a decade ago and it is now, frankly, absurd for the LGE to seek to excuse their extraordinary delay with a good old fashioned piece of lawyer bashing.

"If, in accordance with the agreement, the LGE had used the past ten years to put its house in order which - at the expense of the lowest paid it did not - it would not be placing claims of any nature."

SEE ALSO
Council faces 50m equal pay bill
24 Nov 06 |  Cumbria

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