Page last updated at 17:06 GMT, Tuesday, 7 July 2009 18:06 UK

'Staff to pay' for equality claim

Bury Town Hall sign
The claim involves 1,200 women staff at Bury Council

Jobs are likely to be axed at a Greater Manchester council after it lost an equal pay claim from about 1,200 women staff, its chief executive has warned.

A tribunal ruled that the employees of Bury Metropolitan Borough Council were entitled to the same bonuses as men in similar low-paid jobs.

The council may now pay for the potential multimillion-pound compensation claim bill by axing staff.

"Jobs will go - there's no doubt about that," said council chief Mark Sanders.

Unison, the union that represents many of the staff in the local authority, said the council's threats were "outrageous".

'Second-class citizens'

Ray Short, Unison's north west head of local government, said: "To threaten to cut jobs because Bury council has to pay out what they owe is outrageous.

"They have had years to put funding aside to finance equal pay and this win should have come as no surprise.

"They could have saved council taxpayers half a million pounds in legal costs simply by paying these women what they were legally entitled to, instead of fighting their claim.

"These women were treated like second-class citizens and deserved to be paid the same as men."

A panel in Manchester rejected the authority's claims that male staff were paid more because of a "genuine material factor".

Those staff who work for Bury will in the end be paying for this
Mark Sanders, chief executive

It means the women, including cleaners and cooks, will get the same bonuses as men in similar low-paid roles, such as refuse collectors, labourers and gardeners.

The pay will be backdated to the six years before March 2007, said the Unison union, which successfully pursued the claim.

But the authority's chief executive issued a warning about the impact on jobs at the council.

"We're not clear about what the actual amount of costs would be. It's a considerable number of millions of pounds, that I can say," Mr Sanders told BBC Radio Manchester.

"We will have to look at all sorts of cost-saving measures. We're looking at having an emergency budget mid-year.

"I need to say that those staff who work for Bury will in the end be paying for this."

Speaking after the ruling on Thursday, care worker Bev Hodgkinson said the women had been treated as "second" to men.

The 47-year-old, who has worked for the council for 23 years, said: "I'm absolutely elated - I can't put it into words how I feel.

"It's been a long time coming and for a lot of women workers today, they will feel extremely happy."

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