ST HELENS Council has paid out £3.5million to members of a union following a long-running equal pay dispute.

Members of the GMB union have received the payout, with some winning five-figure sums.

The Star previously reported in November 2012 after an employment judge had ruled in favour of unions who brought an equal pay claim.

Town hall managers had 'protected' higher earnings of employees, such as bin men and street cleaners, between 2000 and 2008 but it was found that workers in other roles, in jobs that were classed as being of equivalent value, were on the same salary grades but were getting paid less.

The case has been ongoing for years with the council taking it to the Employment Tribunal, the Employment Appeal Tribunal and then making applications to the Court of Appeal.

However, the local authority did not proceed with their application the Court of Appeal, confirming a victory for the GMB members.

The defeat will come as a blow to the authority, which earlier this year said it has lost £74 million in government funding since 2010 and needs to make further savings of £20.6m by 2020.

Paul McCarthy, GMB regional secretary, said: “This is a huge victory for GMB members at St Helens Council – and for equal rights in general.

“The authority used every legal argument they could to avoid paying out but after years of wasting everyone’s time they failed.

“We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Simpsons Solicitors who took on the case and will pass on 100% of the compensation – without taking a penny of members’ settlement.

“GMB will always fight inequality in the workplace on behalf of our members where ever we find it.”

St Helens Council declined to comment on the matter when asked by the Star.