Reading council should stop dragging its heels on equal pay

All too often – despite decades of equal rights and equal pay legislation – women are underpaid in the workplace for the work that they do. Yet there is often an expectation that, at least in the public sector, this kind of behaviour is a thing of the past.

Unfortunately – as UNISON members know – that’s not the case.

Today, Reading council – the only local authority in England and Wales to have never settled an equal pay claim – will face 60 women in court, challenging them to cough up the £1.5 million they missed out on by being paid less than their male colleagues for years.

These women are rightly angry that seven years after the council admitted they’d broken the law, they’re still waiting for the back pay they’re owed.

That’s because the council d been using the cash to balance its budget instead.

And the sums involved are staggering. The average amount owed is between £10,000 and £15,000 and one woman may be owed as much as £47,000.

These are life-changing sums of money that the council should be handing over to those who have already earned it – yet the council continue to drag its heels.

Instead, it has spent £800,000 on lawyers to delay shelling out the cash – with so much time having passed, one of the claimants has passed away before justice has been served.

The tribunal will be taking place for the rest of the week – the third time the Reading equal pay case has been at a tribunal hearing. I hope that by the end of this week these women have at long last receive the money that they worked so hard for.