UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Equal pay victory in Bury

It is a notable success for Bury UNISON that it has won a settlement of thousands of Equal Pay claims against Bury Council in the North West of England. A combination of hard work on the ground and the backing of the Region's Equal Pay Unit delivered for the low paid women of Bury Council.

A conscious decision to target with mass litigation the one Greater Manchester Authority that refused to settle five years ago has demonstrated that UNISON has more than one string to its bow and that a combination of targeting resources and activists working on the ground are the common elements to winning.

The limitations of the Equal Pay Act itself and the modest opportunities of the National Job Evaluation Scheme have often been deliberately exploited to the full by employers to deny women equal pay. Coupled with the obscene antics of anti union law firms encouraging workers to sue unions over agreements not adhered to by employers then this was a difficult situation for the union. Rather than dwell on these problems the union took a strategic view, diverted resources including staff time and funds for campaigning, in order to register the cases and serve notices on the Council.

The success is an example of good trade unionism - a right put wrong by workers and their union.

It is equally a sad comment on Bury Council that they chose to spend tax payers money fighting low paid women who are entitled to equal treatment. In the coming austerity negotiations it is a point not to be lost on UNISON's members.

But as a union we must not squander theses successes. We need to increase our density significantly in Bury and other places. We need sustainable workplace power that can deal with employers from a position of negotiating strength. It is less and less likely that the law can be used as part of our amoury, it is clear that the coalition Government is set to unravel what few rights we have in law, whether Health and Safety or Unfair Dismissal. In the future successes like Bury could become the exception rather than the rule. But in the meantime - congratulations to all those involved!