Women win latest round in equal pay battle

Former community support worker Eileen Stringer.

Former community support worker Eileen Stringer.

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SUNDERLAND City Council has lost an appeal in the High Court in the latest round of an ongoing equal pay dispute.

Workers could be in line for a multimillion-pound payout should the city council ultimately lose the long-running pay saga.

The council has faced a large number of claims from women saying they were historically paid less than men doing equivalent jobs.

The cases date back to the 1970s when bonuses were paid to male manual workers, often up to 50 per cent more than women doing comparable jobs.

Yesterday’s appeal court decision upheld an original ruling by the Newcastle Employment Tribunal, in February, in relation to one of a three-part case against the authority.

Sunderland City Council said today the case had not been “concluded” and they were currently “considering” the latest judgement.

Mum-of-two Eileen Stringer, 59, from High Barnes, Sunderland, welcomed the latest development.

“It has been a long time coming,” said the ex-community support worker, who recently retired.

“This has gone on and on and on. Now, hopefully, there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Jacky Barnes, a senior catering supervisor at the council, said: “At the end of the day they owe it us and it’s our money. We should have been given that money in the first place.”

The 54-year-old, from Burnmoor, who has worked at the council for 22 years, said the local authority should have settled the matter earlier.

“For some reason Sunderland City Council are making a big deal about it.

“I cannot believe they have had the neck not to settle with us up to now, because it’s our money.”

At the Court of Appeal yesterday, the city council’s legal team had argued there were reasons for the pay differentials which had nothing to do with sex discrimination.

But Lord Justice Maurice Kay said the simple fact remained that women workers were being paid less than their male “comparators” for jobs which had been rated as being of the same value.

He also said that Sunderland simply “could not discharge the burden” of proving that there was an “objective justification” for the differentials in pay.

Paul Doran, of Stefan Cross Solicitors, which has represented the women, said: “This is another important step on the long road of achieving justice for my clients.”

Sue Stanhope, director of human resources and organisational development at the city council, said: “This employment tribunal case has not been concluded.

“This Court of Appeal 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 definitive figure for any possible compensation that the city council may have to meet.

“Any subsequent compensation will require a remedies hearing.”

Twitter: @tomwhite7