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New round in equal pay battle

Strathclyde's 12 successor authorities continued their battle this week against nine women members of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association who have twice won landmark court judgments against the former region.

An industrial tribunal in Glasgow and the Employment Appeals' Tribunal in Edinburgh, headed by Lord Coulsfield, both backed the teachers' claims that they were entitled to be paid principal teachers' salaries while they were carrying out the PT's duties. The women claimed fair pay under the 1970 Equal Pay Act after running departments when there was no principal teacher in post.

Their cases have been running for almost six years and have been hotly contested by Strathclyde and now its 12 successor councils who on Wednesday appealed to the Court of Session in Edinburgh against the original industrial tribunal decision and that of Lord Coulsfield in upholding it.

Ian Truscott, counsel for the authorities, repeated his assertion before Lords Ross, Cowie and Weir that the industrial tribunal had misread the Equal Pay Act and had misdirected itself. The appeals' tribunal had made a similar error.

The tribunal also sought to justify its decision by examining the promoted post structure and Strathclyde's running of the education department but it strayed into areas it should not have under the pay Act, Mr Truscott argued.

However, Peter Grant-Hutchison, counsel for the teachers, countered that both tribunals were right to find in their favour and had not misdirected themselves.

Should the local authorities lose their third court case they are prepared to take their argument to the House of Lords and the European Court. Another 350 equal pay cases of acting principal teachers are already in the pipeline which could cost the councils Pounds 20 million.

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