Paul Sinclair : Equality, Yes, but at What Cost

Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland), August 31, 2005 | Go to article overview

Paul Sinclair : Equality, Yes, but at What Cost


Byline: Paul Sinclair

SATAN comes to see a lawyer in the middle of the night. He promises he will make him the richest, most famous lawyer in all the world.

Women will fall at his feet and he will enjoy the lifestyle of the most fabulous celebrity.

But at the end of this life, Satan says, the lawyer's soul will belong to him.

The lawyer pauses and thinks for a minute and then says: "Sounds ok...but where's the catch?"

Lawyers are almost as unpopular as politicians and journalists and, in the case of one mob trawling round Scotland, with good reason.

Action 4 Equality are a front for a Newcastle lawyer, Stefan Cross.

They are going round the country trying to sign up low-paid workers and promising to win them riches.

It sounds a noble cause, but there's a catch.

There are many women workers who are paid less by councils than their male counterparts.

In 1999 a number of local authorities signed deals, called Single Status Agreements, to make sure women were paid the same rate for the same job men do.

But there was a snag.

Either male workers lost bonuses to bring them down to the level of women or councils faced a massive hike in the wage bill.

With central government refusing to make up the shortfall that means that today Scottish councils would have to find an extra pounds 500 million if women's wages were raised to the level of men.

So councils and trade unions signed a deal agreeing to pause before the new equality measures were brought in. Since then they have been negotiating local deals, council by council.

Cross and Action 4 Equality are signing up workers and taking councils to tribunals to get them the extra cash now.

The average claim is about fifteen grand a time, with Cross pocketing 10 per cent of every case won.

But here is the real catch. If this happens immediately it will cost jobs. Take Glasgow City Council. They have 38,000 workers. If 7000 went to a tribunal and won that could cost pounds 70 million or a 26 per cent rise in council tax.

If councils all end up in court then, yes, many workers will get payouts - and Cross and his pals will get their ten per cent. …

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