Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Council Accused of Christmas Con Trick; Unions Claim Council Is Preying on Vulnerable Low-Paid Women

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Council Accused of Christmas Con Trick; Unions Claim Council Is Preying on Vulnerable Low-Paid Women

Article excerpt

Byline: Joanne Butcher; Adrian Pearson

WOMEN battling Northumberland County Council for equal pay will be made deliberately low offers in the run sup to Christmas in the hope they will be too desperate to refuse them, it has been claimed.

More than 3,000 women are fighting the authority after it was revealed they were paid less than their male counterparts.

And while most have put the legal wrangles behind them, around 300 claims remain unsettled.

Now, solicitors for unions GMB and Unison have warned that the council may offer the women an "incorrectly calculated" lower payment just before Christmas.

Lawyers said the women might accept less than they are entitled to because the offers were timed over the festive season.

Mother-of-two Sue Roberts, 50, of Kingston Park, was among those who received the letter from Thompson's solicitors yesterday.

Solicitor Oisin Gourley wrote: "I have been informed that the council are likely to make offers in the coming weeks. The council has informed the unions that the offers are likely to be incorrectly calculated. This means it is likely that the offer you receive will be less than you are entitled to.

"I believe the aim of the council is to forward an offer around Christmas in the hope that you will accept it without checking that it is correct."

Sue, a former assistant cook at Ponteland First School, launched her equal pay claim in 2006.

She said: "It is shocking. You expect an employer like the local authority to be ethical. For a lot of people, the offer of money just before Christmas will be hard to turn down."

The mother-of-two, who now works in childcare in Cramlington, added: "This has gone on so long now. It is very frustrating because everyone I worked with has got their money, but I haven't even been told what I am entitled to."

Sue was among thousands of women across the UK, including cleaners, carers and lollipop ladies, who discovered they'd been paid less than their male counterparts since 1997.

Last night Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery threatened to raise the issue in parliament if the women were not awarded "the full and final settlement they deserve". …

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