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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 April 2007, 11:17 GMT 12:17 UK
Dinner ladies win equal pay fight
Dinner lady
The woman could be awarded up to 10,000 each
A group of school dinner ladies could be awarded thousands of pounds after winning their equal pay battle.

The House of Lords ruled in favour of the women who said they were victimised by St Helens Borough Council.

The 36 dinner ladies could each be awarded compensation of up to 10,000. They were among 500 workers claiming equal pay with road sweepers in 1998.

Most accepted a settlement but some took their claim to a tribunal, which awarded them a share of 560,000.

The women received a letter from a council officer warning that the claim could have a severe impact on staff, cause redundancies and might even deprive children of school dinners.

Lord Neuberger said this was "effectively a threat".

'Blackmail'

The GMB national officer Brian Strutton said: "It was extremely distressing to be told by their employer that their action might lead to cuts, to children going hungry at lunchtime, to colleagues losing their jobs.

"Frankly, it felt like blackmail and it took a lot of courage by them to keep going. St Helens acted wrongly towards these women and now they'll have to pay up for it."

Michelle Cronin, the women's solicitor at Thompsons, said: "Women workers have suffered injustice in the labour market for centuries. There is still an unacceptable gender pay gap.

"Today's judgment should make clear once and for all to employers what their response to equal pay claims should be.

The lawyer added: "They cannot intimidate individuals and expect to get away with it."


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