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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 November 2006, 18:06 GMT
Ministers resist pay intervention
Workers in a kitchen
So far one council has implemented the equal pay agreement
The Scottish Executive has insisted that the backlog of equal pay for council workers is a matter for local authorities to sort out.

The councils claim to be making progress in solving the dispute, which could see the compensation bill for women workers reach nearly 600m.

In a debate at Holyrood, MSPs called on the executive to step in.

Deputy Finance Minister George Lyon said it was up to local councils to use their reserves to fund the package.

So far, one local authority has implemented the agreement reached seven years ago with unions.

The Scottish Socialist Party, which led the debate, said councils have used regrading to cut pay.

Same jobs

However, its motion was defeated by 65 votes to 35 with 15 abstentions.

South Lanarkshire Council has put in place an agreement to equalise pay for men and woman doing the same jobs.

The other 31 councils are trying to settle compensation claims, which it is estimated will cost between 310m and 560m.

As the executive has made clear a number of times, this is a matter for which local authorities are responsible
George Lyon
Deputy Finance Minister

The councils said they may have to go back to the executive for more money to fund the deal.

Carolyn Leckie, of the Scottish Socialist Party, said many low paid workers were losing thousands of pounds from their annual salaries.

"It is government, local and national, who are culpable," she said.

"The executive must provide resources to help resolve the issue."

Mr Lyon said: "As the executive has made clear a number of times, this is a matter for which local authorities are responsible."

Finance Minister Tom McCabe suggested in February that local authorities look to their reserves to help meet the costs of their equal pay responsibilities.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Pat Watters, president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla), said councils should be left alone to sort out the deal.

Carolyn Leckie
Carolyn Leckie says workers are losing thousands of pounds

Labour MSP Elaine Murray said that simply calling for the executive to foot the bill was the easy option.

Dr Murray said: "It is very easy to say that the Scottish Executive should just reach into its magic wallet and pull out the cash to settle the problem."

Scottish Tory finance spokesman Derek Brownlee said it was "appalling" that no resolution has been reached on the issue.

Scottish National Party finance spokesman John Swinney said local authorities and unions must co-operate on the issue.

Green MSP Mark Ballard added that Edinburgh City Council is facing a major cash backlog over the issue.

He said: "They have hoped the problem will go away. They now have a huge black hole in their finances."




SEE ALSO
Union accepts equal pay proposals
20 Oct 06 |  North East/N Isles
Hopes for equal pay breakthrough
19 Oct 06 |  North East/N Isles
Pay cut plan under equality deal
18 Oct 06 |  Tayside and Central
Glasgow reaches 'equal pay' deal
13 Oct 06 |  Glasgow and West
Legal threat over equal pay row
19 Sep 06 |  Tayside and Central

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