AN appeal against the latest decision in an long-running equal-pay bid has been turned down.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal rejected Sunderland City Council’s appeal against a decision by Newcastle Employment Tribunal that a new pay structure introduced in 2005 continued to discriminate against women workers.
Earlier this year, the Court of Appeal turned down another appeal by the council.
Judges disagreed with its claim that an earlier decision by the Newcastle Tribunal, ruling the bonuses were discriminatory, was incorrectly decided.
The row dates back to pay schemes introduced in the 70s and relates to bonuses of up to 50 per cent paid to men, which were not paid to female colleagues doing comparable jobs.
In 1997, along with other councils, Sunderland brought in single status pay in a bid to improve equality.
In many cases, unions negotiated to save bonus systems for jobs such as road sweepers, refuse workers and gardeners.
But roles mainly held by women – such as cleaners, care workers, cooks and administrative assistants – did not have bonuses, leaving them out of pocket.
Lawyers have said more than 3,000 current and former employees in Sunderland were affected.
Solicitor Paul Doran, from the firm acting for about 1,300 of the women, called the latest decision “ground-breaking” and said other local authorities in the region would be “looking on nervously”.
“This is the first decision of its kind in which a council has been found not only to have been guilty of historic discrimination, but that it has then proceeded to implement a new pay structure which simply perpetuated the very discrimination that it was intended to resolve.
“We are delighted that the Appeal Tribunal shared our view that the appeal was completely without merit,” he said.
Sue Stanhope, Sunderland City Council director of human resources, said: “This relates to an ongoing employment tribunal case which has not been concluded.
“This decision relates to only one part of an ongoing three-part case called Brennan and Others.
“The city council is now considering this judgement. The other parts of the employment tribunal case are ongoing.
“There is no final or definite figure for any possible compensation that the city council might have to meet.”