A dinner lady has been awarded £190,000 in back pay and compensation as part of plans to settle a £1 billion council equal pay debacle, it has emerged today.
The woman in question, employed by Birmingham City Council, was said to have been overwhelmed when told of the windfall. A source told the Express & Star she had been told she ‘might want to sit down’ before she was informed of the good news.
Around 11,000 female employees past and present of the council are eligible for payouts after a court ruled it had to compensate workers who were paid less than men for doing equivalent jobs.
Other councils across the Black Country have also had thousands of claims running to tens of millions of pounds.
Birmingham’s bill is so high it has forced the council to put its landmark venues the NEC, National Indoor Arena, LG Arena and International Convention Centre up for sale to try to cover the costs.
The council has refused to confirm or deny that one dinner lady was paid the enormous sum of £190,000, citing confidentiality clauses. And its press office has said that members of the Labour cabinet would not be commenting either.
Conservative councillor Peter Douglas Osborn said the council was paying the price for Tony Blair and Labour’s ‘single status’ agreement with the trade unions in 1997, which said different public sector jobs typically done by one gender could be compared for pay, such as refuse collectors, which were typically men, and cleaners who were mainly women.
He said: “The staff involved signed confidentiality agreements. Between 1997 and 2013, if a dinner lady had 17 years’ service as a manager the settlement would come near enough to £190,000. I have been told it is not outside the bounds of possibility.
“It seems that, with Labour in charge of the council, its chickens have come home to roost from the eggs laid by Tony Blair.”
Tony Rabaiotti, from the Unison trade union. said the city council had made a mistake in 2008 when it paid bonuses to binmen to stop them going on strike, opening itself up to a flood of new claims.
He said: “We have had cases where care assistants have been eligible for payments around £100,000. These were women with long service who had not been treated the same as men doing equivalent work.”