A WOMAN’S work is never done, so the saying goes.

A woman’s work is also, it seems, underpaid and undervalued.

You can’t have helped but notice the stories about the equal pay claim against Glasgow City Council, especially not with the bill for the city being estimated at as much as half a billion pounds.

It is an estimate though and, at the moment, there’s really no way of knowing how much paying the thousands of women who are owed compensation will cost.  

Last month a Glasgow City Council committee voted to end more than a decade of legal wrangling over equal pay for low-paid, mostly female staff, and move to negotiating a settlement.

The battle is about the fact that more than 10,000 employees and former employees claim a workforce pay and benefits review (WPBR) in 2006 discriminated against those working in roles such as caring, cleaning and catering: jobs mostly done by women.

Bosses deliberately made the pay reassessment look fair and equal while protecting the salaries of male workers by giving them access to extra bonuses and benefits not available to their female counterparts.

This inequality was pointed out more than 10 years ago but the former Labour administration has dallied over doing anything to right this wrong. 

Bear in mind, equality legislation designed to stamp out this kind of situation was passed nearly 50 years ago. We shouldn’t be having to have equal pay conversations in 2018.

But we are, and not just with Glasgow City Council. Female staff at Tesco this week also announced they were launching a legal bid for fair pay.

In the week that we marked the 100th anniversary of women beginning to get the right to vote, we learned that Tesco is facing a demand for up to £4 billion in back pay from thousands of mainly female shopworkers. 

If successful, it would be the UK’s largest ever equal pay claim. Asda and Sainsburys also have similar actions against them ongoing. 

A ruling against Birmingham Council Council, which is similar to the Glasgow case, in 2010 led to the local authority paying out more than £1bn in settlements.

Despite the decision by the council last month not to go on to the Court of Session, the women are still waiting for talks currently underway to move the situation forward. They are represented by the unions Unison and the GMB and the majority are supported by Action 4 Equality Scotland

On Saturday, Unison organised a march from Glasgow Green to George Square – backed by Action 4 Equality Scotland – with women dressed as suffragettes leading the way. 

They want to keep the case in the public eye and in the consciousness of councillors on the hope of speeding up a resolution. Let’s face it, they have been waiting a long time.

Some women have died waiting for their claims to be settled, others have retired – meaning they have spent their entire careers being underpaid.

The women want changes to their terms and conditions and an equal pay structure to the male-dominated jobs. Some of them are working two or even three jobs to make ends meet and this extra cash is needed. 

Part of the reason the case in our city has dragged on for so long is because council bosses don’t want to pay out.

Giving money to the women who are claiming it means taking money away from resources across the city. There is no doubt that Glasgow is in a bind. 

But we are just going to have to tough it out. 

Labour leader Frank McAveety, at the meeting to vote on continuing legal action or not, raised concerns about the negative impact on jobs and services if the council pays out. Birmingham’s council had to sell off its assets in order to make the payments but Glasgow has said that will not happen here.

Another way to look at it is that for the past decade and more, Glasgow has benefited from the cheap labour of thousands of women. Vital services have been provided thanks to the women who have provided them for too little remuneration.

Negotiations for a settlement will be long and difficult but we must support all the women involved who have earned fair and equal treatment. 

Women are always asked to make sacrifices. They put their careers on hold to raise children, they pause their lives to take on caring responsibilities for elderly or ill relatives. 

They will now be asked to make financial sacrifices and take deals in order to keep the city financially ticking over. Having been fleeced before they will be asked to accept being fleeced again. Enough is enough. 

At their marches and demonstrations the equal pay campaigners’ banners have read Equal Pay Or We Walk Way. Thankfully these women have never walked away. They have carried our city and now we must treat them with respect in return and give them the pay and conditions that are rightfully theirs.