Establishing "equal pay for equal work" in local government is much more tricky than I realised before I became a councillor. When I started my first job in government service, the principle had just been established for civil servants. The infamous "marriage bar" (female civil servants had to resign on marriage) was on its way out, department by department, too. (Though it was not to be finally abolished across the whole service for about a decade.) That was over forty years ago.
I naively assumed that the resistance to pay equality in local government was purely down to neanderthal trade unions and dark-age management. Case law and the Human Rights Act have forced local authorities into the twenty-first century. However, a series of seminars organised for members by Neath Port Talbot council has shown that there are great difficulties in correcting the anomalies which have built up over a century or more of local government. The number of different jobs and grades, the tradition of local pay rate setting, the distinction between "staff" and "workers", as well as that between "female" and "male" jobs have made the negotiations very difficult. Councils naturally have to try to balance the budget, ensuring that the net increase to the pay bill is as low as possible. That means that there will be winners as well as losers in the process. TU reps will seek to minimise the latter. Both sides have in mind that the standard of living of some of the lowest paid could be affected.
In South Wales, negotiations have - so far as I can see - been conducted responsibly and with good faith on both sides. Not so in the rest of England & Wales. There have been many serious disputes throughout the country. It is surprising that these have not made headlines in the "national" newspapers, seeing as how gleefully they leapt on examples of failed rubbish collection during the "winter of discontent".
Richard Baum, a LibDem councillor in Lancashire, reports on the most recent case. It seems that Old Labour is gleefully turning a drama into a crisis.
Ironically, central government under Thatcher, through Major and Blair, and including Brown, has steadily reversed pay equality by transferring work from career civil servants to agencies and commercial organisations which bypass the agreements and legislation.