Page last updated at 08:45 GMT, Monday, 5 May 2008 09:45 UK

Equal pay challenge for councils

Unison equal pay placard
Some workers could face cuts of up to 5,000 a year

Newly-elected councillors may be asked to consider cutting wages of some staff, if agreement on an equal pay deal cannot be reached.

BBC Wales' Eye On Wales programme has looked at negotiations at one local authority, Denbighshire.

The council signed the "single status agreement" 11 years ago, in a bid to end unequal pay for women workers.

Denbighshire Council's chief executive said changes to wages may have to be imposed if a deal cannot be agreed.

The "single status agreement" was struck by councils and unions in 1997, committing local authorities to delivering equal pay for women workers where their wages had fallen behind the men.

But Eye On Wales, broadcast on BBC Radio Wales this evening, has found the deal will mean that some stand to lose out in their pay packet.

We've got to reach a situation where we can say that our pay is equal and fair
Ian Miller, Denbighshire chief executive

"My current salary is approximately 17,000 a year. Under this new, so-called package, that's been reduced," council worker Richard Davies told the programme.

"I've had 1,120 'stolen' from my annual salary by my employer Denbighshire County Council. "That's in the face of rising fuel charges, rising food prices, rising petrol costs - it's no wonder that people are angry up here."

'Cushion'

But council chief executive Ian Miller admitted that others could find even less in their wage packets, with some losing up to 5,000 a year.

The council is proposing to put a three-year pay protection plan in place to cushion the blow, but there is the real possibility that the whole deal is rejected by the workforce in a ballot in the early summer.

If that happens, Mr Miller said the newly-elected councillors face some tough decisions.

"At the end of the day we've got to tackle this issue, we've got to reach a situation where we can say that our pay is equal and fair," he said.

"If we're not able to agree that with the unions and staff, one option the council may have to consider is whether it should impose changes in terms and conditions."

Strikes

The whole issue of equal pay in councils has already prompted strikes in Birmingham, and unions accept in Wales that there is a fine line between preserving pay and keeping jobs.

"Quite clearly we don't want to see situations where we achieve equal pay at the expense of jobs or at the expense of terms and conditions," said Paul Elliot from the union Unison.

"That's not how it was supposed to be. Councils are public bodies.

"They should be community leaders in this respect - and put their house in order."

You can listen to Eye on Wales on BBC Radio Wales at 18:30 BST, 5 May




SEE ALSO
Equal pay strike 'solid' at DVLA
29 Feb 08 |  South West Wales
Council wages ballot on horizon
04 Apr 08 |  South of Scotland

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