NORTH Ayrshire Council says it has reached agreement with the trade unions to settle equal pay over the next few months.

The trade union solicitors will shortly be issuing letters confirming settlement offers for more than 500 current and former employees.

The announcement comes following comprehensive discussions with trade unions’ solicitors acting on behalf of claimants.

North Ayrshire Council Leader Joe Cullinane said: “When I became Council Leader 18 months ago, I made it clear I wanted our equal pay claims resolved. Equal pay has been a stain on local government for too long. It has taken 18 months but we are pleased that the claims have now been resolved and that payment can now be made.”

We revealed that the council had sat atop the list of the most unsettled equal pay cases in Scotland, at 95 percent over a ten year period.

The battle for equal pay began in 2007 when councils across the country were confronted by claims that some female council workers were earning less than male colleagues for doing a similar job.

A total of 605 out of 629 (95 per cent) equal pay claims at NAC remained outstanding - the highest percentage in Scotland, with the national average of around one-third. NAC had around £3m set aside to deal with existing claims, plus a further £1million for any future cases arising. Last year the council admitted the backlog, but assured us that the matter was soon to be settled.

A North Ayrshire Council spokesperson said: “We delayed settling the majority of our equal pay claims until the Glasgow City Council Employment Tribunal case and appeal outcome was known – a decision which could potentially impact on all local authority equal pay settlements in Scotland.”

“Now that we are aware of the outcome, we can ensure any outstanding claims are settled to the satisfaction of claimants, the trade unions and the council.”

The council said it has been managing potential equal pay claims for quite some time. The complexities of equal pay along with emerging case law and appeals has played a major factor in the length of time to reach a conclusion. It said it ‘remains fully committed to promoting equality’.

Last year, the Council approved its Fair For All strategy which aims to tackle inequality and poverty and places the principles of fairness and equity at the heart of all the Council’s activities.