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Justice at last for female employees

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Doreen Goldthorpe: Four years hard work has led to 100 women getting a payout

Doreen Goldthorpe: Four years hard work has led to 100 women getting a payout

SOME one hundred female employees and former employees of Pembrokeshire County Council are celebrating this week having successfully pursued a claim for Equal Pay Discrimination against the local authority, which is set to cost the council hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Claimants included hard working care workers, cleaners, dinner ladies and lollipop ladies began their action in 2012, when formal complaints of discrimination to Pembrokeshire County Council were completely rebuffed by the authority’s senior staff.

The ladies however were not to be put off and contacted solicitor Mr Chris Benson of Leigh Day & Co, London, who after considering the matter agreed to take on the case. Leigh Day had previously succeeded in winning a landmark case on Equal Pay in the High Court whilst representing female workers of Birmingham City Council.

An open meeting was held at the Cleddau Bridge Hotel, Pembroke Dock, when more employees who believed they had been discriminated against came forward and following this the case was pursued by Leigh Day which has resulted in this week’s payment to the claimants in an out of court settlement agreed with the council.

The Ladies are extremely grateful to Leigh Day for their diligent approach to the case that has lasted nearly four years, but are less than complimentary to the council who have fought the claim every step of the way, despite other local authorities settling their claims many years ago.

The union UNISON also offered no help to the group, stating in a letter to the women in 2012 that ‘you cannot bring a claim unless you do so within six months of leaving your employment, changing your job, being promoted or your employment transferring to a different employer’.

The landmark case against Birmingham City Council led by the team from Leigh Day at the Supreme Court led to the historic judgement that extended the time limit for claims from six months to six years.

In December 2014 the women were told they were entitled to pay outs but that they were unlikely to receive them before Christmas that year, which caused great unrest amongst the women, as former Chief Executive Bryn Parry-Jones had received a six figure settlement whilst they were still waiting.

Over two years later the claim has finally been settled despite the continuing claims from the council that some women were not entitled to payment as there was ‘no male comparator’ in their job role.

The council had claimed that cooks in charge, cook supervisors and care staff were eligible for pay-outs whilst cleaners, catering assistants, lunchtime supervisors, teaching assistants and school crossing patrols were not. Leigh Day and Co, who gathered information from local unions and other sources to support their claim that every woman was entitled, challenged this. The council also admitted making ‘nominal’ pay-outs to employees in ineligible job roles in order to avoid the legal costs of contesting these claims. With the council now also having to pay the solicitors fees on top of the individual pay outs, the eventual bill is sure to be multiple hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Mrs Doreen Goldthorp has led the charge against the council, after she was underpaid in her role as a care worker, she told The Herald: “After four years of fighting Pembrokeshire County Council we have finally come to the close of our claim, in which there are 100 of us waiting to be paid out our cheques from Mr Chris Benson and Ms Sara Rumberg from Leigh Day & Co at their London office.

“Thank you very much to them, and I’m sure all these people when they get their cheques will appreciate what has been achieved.

“I am delighted that something I started four years ago has now resulted in 100 women in similar situations getting their just rewards and receiving their pay out.

“It wouldn’t have been possible without the fantastic team at Leigh Day, who took on our case when our unions UNISON and GMB said they would not, and when the council said we had no chance.

“We were told by the council at one point to ‘take us on you won’t win anything’ and we have proven them wrong. It is a wonderful day.”

The Herald contacted Pembrokeshire County Council for comment, a spokesperson said: “I understand a settlement has been agreed with just over 100 ex-female employees relating to compensatory payments in lieu of equal pay.

“Initially some of them would not have been liable for a payout as there was only a six month window in which a claim could be made. However a landmark case involving Birmingham City Council in 2012 increased the window for lodging a claim to six years.”

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Flashbang

    February 24, 2016 at 10:35 am

    It would be good if any of these ladies who have any knowledge of wrongdoing by PCC would come forward and spill the beans. We are sick and tired of the corruption and dodgy dealings getting hushed up and hidden.

  2. tomos

    February 24, 2016 at 6:36 pm

    @ Flashbang:

    The woman who dared to report a paedophile working with children in PCC was sacked for daring to rock the PCC boat – so what do you think?

    I wonder how many of the IPPG councillors sleep at night or are they all claiming – nothing to do with me

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10% Council tax rise supported

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IN A RECORDED vote, Pembrokeshire County Council has approved its draft budget for 2019/20, which will see a 10% rise in council tax.

The budget was approved at Thursday’s (Feb 21) Full Council meeting but was met with some opposition by some members who said other options were available.
Cabinet member for Finance, Cllr Bob Kilmister described his role as a ‘poisoned chalice’ but went on to say: “We are still cheaper in Pembrokeshire than any other local authority in Wales. I have heard that increasing the council tax may have a burden on many who fit into the category of working poor.
“However, if we cut more services it will affect these people the most.”

He went on to highlight a number of outcomes should council tax not be increased by 10% and added: “An additional £1.89 a week avoids these outcomes.”

There is also an extra £1m to cover Brexit but Cllr Kilmister said he had ‘no idea’ if that would be enough.

Cllr Brian Hall asked how many redundancies would be made if certain services were changed but Cllr Kilmister said they were looking at what they have got in the council and looking to train for those people who are leaving vital jobs.

Cllr Hall said that the majority of staff were really concerned, and Cllr Kilmister said they could not start that process until a decision was made on the budget.

Cllr Jamie Adams said they needed to come up with a budget that was more ‘wider-thinking’ and said it was about ‘delivering value for money for Council Tax payers.
He said he was unable to support the budget that demands 10% and challenged other members saying: “Don’t be afraid of doing that, there are different ways to square the circle.”

Cllr Josh Beynon said that while a 10% rise was not the most popular it was the right thing to do.

Cllr Phil Kidney said he was finding it tough to get his head round the customer service centre closing and said they would ‘disenfranchise’ a lot of people by doing so.
However, Cllr Kilmister later said that the service would still be provided but in a different way.
He also said that the current administration was doing more of getting rid of buildings that the previous administration ever did. He added: “This is not something I am doing out of choice, I am doing it out of necessity.”

Cllr Pat Davies said she was ‘dismayed’ to find the previous administration had no strategic plan and said that she had done a lot of catching up over the last 18 months.
Speaking on the transformation program, Cllr Michelle Bateman said progress was being made and that she didn’t want to be part of a council that cuts services and keeps council tax low.

Cllr John Davies explained that the council does have other options and Cllr Kilmister challenged him saying he was welcome to make a new proposal but told Cllr Davies he would have to tell him where the money would be coming from.

Cllr Kilmister went on to say they could only do the budget on the information they have.
Council Leader Cllr David Simpson praised Cllr Kilmister for what he had done over the past 12 months saying he had done an ‘exceptional job’.
He went on to say that he was ‘proud’ of his whole cabinet who had the ability to answer any questions that came their way.

Cllr Simpson then said: “The staff we have in this building are superb, do we want to slash their jobs? No we don’t. We are looking at departments and making cuts where we can.”
When it was put to the vote, 37 members voted in favour of the budget, with 21 voting against.

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Councillor denies ‘bullying’ claim

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A COUNCILLOR has denied that he ‘bullied’ a senior officer of the council when he said that the Chief Executive and Dyfed Powys Police enjoyed a ‘cosy relationship’.
That was the claim made by Cllr Jacob Williams at a recent meeting of the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee in relation to the delay in sending a letter of complaint to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
The complaint related to the Pembroke Dock Commercial Property Grants scheme, which is still being investigated by Dyfed Powys Police.
At a meeting of Full Council on Thursday (Feb 21), Cllr Ken Rowlands submitted a question asking if the leader agreed with his statement.
The leader, Cllr David Simpson simply replied: “No, I do not.”
In response, Cllr Rowlands said: “Would you agree that the member concerned slandered our chief executive and the police?”
He went on to say that he was far from happy for an officer to be insulted and bullied in such a way.
Cllr Rowlands felt it was a breach of the code of conduct and added that Cllr Williams should make a public apology.
Cllr Simpson responded: “I have had three communications after the Jacob Williams and Chief Executive incident. All three left a meeting with me understanding that it is not the leaders’ role to interfere with members.
“If the actions are unreasonable the chair is there to make sure members act in a good way. There are sixty members and I can’t alter their opinions. As for a breach of the code of conduct, that is a matter for you and if you think he has you have an obligation to go to the monitoring officer.”
Cllr Jacob Williams stated that he ‘categorically denied’ the claims made by Cllr Rowlands and said he understood that he did make a complaint to the monitoring officer but that it wasn’t considered appropriate to refer to the ombudsman.
At the same meeting, questions were also asked by Cllr Mike Stoddart in relation to the council’s handling of the letter of complaint.
He asked which officers were involved in drafting a letter and was told that the Head of Legal services made a decision to provide a draft which was authorised by the committee services manager.
Cllr Stoddart also asked why there was a lack of clarity as to who the letter should be sent too.
Cllr Simpson responded saying the resolution was unambiguous and that the IOPC website directed complaints to Dyfed Powys Police which was contradictory to the resolution of council.
Finally, Cllr Stoddart asked when the letter of rejection was received by then chair Cllr Paul Harries, how long after putting it in his briefcase did he rediscover it.
Cllr Simpson replied on behalf of Cllr Harries stating it was found on October 10, 2018.
Cllr Stoddart replied simply to say that it had been ‘lingering in the bottom of his briefcase for five months’.

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Haverfordwest: Pedestrian killed on A4076 at Dregeman Hill

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AT 11.10PM on Wednesday, February 20, Dyfed-Powys Police received a report of a road traffic collision on the A4076 at Dredgeman Hill, Haverfordwest.

The collision involved a car and a pedestrian. Tragically, the pedestrian was pronounced dead at the scene.

The police told The Herald: “We are appealing for any witnesses that may have been travelling along that section of road at that time. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Serious Collision Investigation Unit quoting message 431 of February 20.”

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