THERE were smiles of pure joy and cheers of relief as the news broke outside Glasgow City Chambers that councillors had voted to back an equal pay deal.

Nearly 16,000 current and former employees of Glasgow City Council will finally benefit from a long-awaited resolution to a hard-fought battle for equality.

Yesterday, councillors signed off a £548 million deal that will see certain city assets sold to cover the costs.

Claimants are expected to start receiving their payments from June following the council’s City Administration Committee’s decision to back the deal at a meeting yesterday.

Council leader Susan Aitken said: “This has been a very difficult and complex process.

"There was give and take and compromise on all sides.

“I’m absolutely certain we’ve reached the right settlement and it is fair to the claimants.

“I want to thank the claimants, who have been steadfast in their commitment and their dedication to getting justice. It has been a significant effort by a large number of people.”

The council will sell a number of buildings to City Property, which is wholly-owned by the council, before leasing them back.

These purchases will be funded by long-term loans, with lease payments meeting the annual cost of the borrowing.

As told by the Evening Times last week, it is expected Emirates Arena, Riverside Museum, SEC Armadillo, Scotstoun Leisure Centre, Tollcross International Swimming Centre, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow Museums Resource Centre, City Halls, Toryglen Football Centre, Gorbals Leisure Centre and Bellahouston Leisure Centre will become part of the City Property portfolio.

Ms Aitken added: “The funding strategy is extremely imaginative, it’s very clever.

"It allows us to meet our obligations in a way that allows us to mitigate the impact as much as possible.”

The majority of claimants are female caring, catering and cleaning staff although a small number of men, including 300 janitors, are included.

Pay issues will not be fully settled until a new pay and grading scheme is introduced.

Carole Forrest, solicitor to the council, said: “There will remain a period of liability for those claimants who are still in the council’s employment until the pay and grading scheme is in place.

"That’s anticipated to be April 2021.”

Ms Aitken added: “What remains is not insignificant but compared to what we have negotiated over the past year, it will be much more straightforward and also a much smaller sum.”

The GMB Union, which had been highly criticised for its failure to adequately represent its female members, yesterday issued a vow that it would never let them down again.

Gary Smith, GMB Scotland secretary, said: “When I came to Scotland just over three years ago our union was being attacked by our own members in North Lanarkshire over equal pay, and we were quite rightly being called out in the national media for this too.

“Our union was badly let down by its previous solicitors but we let ourselves down because we stopped acting as a proper trade union should, by campaigning – in the workplace, in the media and on the streets.

By campaigning properly to defend our members’ interests, we managed to rectify the situation and secure full settlements for our members.

“But the situation in North Lanarkshire was dwarfed by the scale of the problem in Glasgow.

“From the outset in Glasgow, I told our members we will never hide from our failings. We had forgotten how to fight for the people who pay our wages and depend on us for a fair deal in life.

“Apologising, I said that we couldn’t change the past but together we could change the future.

“GMB Scotland is far better for this experience. It’s reminded us of our responsibility to give workers the confidence to organise under our banner.

“Equal pay has shown us how to campaign and fight again as a good trade union should.”