Headlines: February 11th, 2010

The country’s largest public service union says a legal ruling in an equal pay case could pave the way for thousands of women working for councils to pursue similar action. The Court of Appeal had backed a claim from UNISON that women employed by Sheffield City Council as carers and school meals staff are entitled to the same bonus payments as men.

The union said male street cleaners and gardeners at the Council, received bonuses worth a third more than the women, who had jobs that the Council had agreed were comparable. UNISON supported the women’s appeal against an earlier Employment Tribunal ruling. The case will now go back to the Tribunal.

The council’s case was based on an earlier Appeal Court decision and argued that the bonuses had nothing to do with gender, but were paid to boost productivity. The women in the Sheffield case argued that a 1993 European Court of Justice ruling should apply and that as the bonuses were unfairly beneficial to men, the council had to prove a gender free reason why they were paid.

The Appeal judges upheld the claim that the productivity bonuses were discriminatory and sent the case back to an Employment Tribunal, where the council will now have to justify the bonus scheme. UNISON said the decision would affect women claiming against other local authorities.

Bronwyn McKenna, UNISON Director of Organising and Membership, said: “The women involved in this case have already been forced to jump through a number of legal hurdles to get the fair pay they deserve. UNISON is calling on Sheffield City Council not to drag the process out even further by lodging another appeal.”