Maintenance staff at the University of Wales Trinity St David have successfully claimed around £500,000 in compensation from their employers after suing for sex discrimination.
The 23 male staff members claimed they were paid less than their female co-workers in equivalent positions for seven years, with each employee being underpaid, on average, by £4000 a year since 1st August 2007. As a result they were seeking more than £30,000 each in back payments, as well as future wage increases that would keep their pay equal to female colleagues in the same job.
During a hearing, which was held in Cardiff on Tuesday 29th April, the University’s legal team said that they would no longer be contesting the claim and agreed to pay out to the claimants and five more men on the same pay grade.
The University had initially argued that the pay difference was due to changes to the men’s contracts not because of gender.
However, Peter Wallington QC, representing the University, said: ‘In light of the evidence that was agreed this morning, I have taken some further instructions from the respondents who concede the [claims of] equal pay was well founded.’
Paul Doran, the men’s solicitor, said he expected his clients to share a £500,000 payout, “as there are a few matters such as interest and the right to an award for ‘injury to feelings’ that have been revised in the last couple of days.”
He welcomed the University’s decision to drop the case. “I’m absolutely delighted for my clients … While it is disappointing that they were required to take it all the way to tribunal to get such an admission, the acknowledgment that they were right all along will be just as enjoyable as the compensation that they will receive.’
The £500,000 payout is less than the £736,000 the men were initially expecting. However, Rob Cooze, 50, a tradesman from Swansea, said he and his colleagues were elated. “With all due respect to our new employers, Trinity St David, this is completely new to them and is a historical issue. I just hope it hasn’t soured any relations between us,” he said.
The group of co-workers are believed to be the biggest group in Britain claiming sex discrimination. All were originally employed by Swansea Metropolitan University, which merged with the University of Wales Trinity St David in August last year.
A University spokesman said: ‘We came to the view that the original claim presented by staff to the former Swansea Metropolitan University had due merit and, as a result, an appropriate remedy should be agreed and actioned.
‘The employment tribunal related to events that occurred more than seven years ago at the now dissolved higher education corporation Swansea Metropolitan University and several years before its merger with the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, which took place in 2013.
‘The University of Wales Trinity Saint David had no involvement in the decisions that were made by Swansea Metropolitan University in 2007. This was a complex case and we are very disappointed the new University now has to deal with, in an appropriate manner and with due care, the consequences of historical decisions.’