Local authorities have been accused by a Birmingham MP of “clobbering” low paid staff.
MP Sion Simon (Lab Erdington) called for a full Westminster debate about the introduction of a controversial new salary structure for council workers.
He said he wanted the chance to tell ministers about what he called the “cynical abuse” of laws designed to make the pay system fairer.
Birmingham City Council had used the legislation as an excuse to cut the wages of low-paid staff, Mr Simon claimed. He told Cabinet Minister Harriet Harman, the Leader of the Commons, that MPs must have the chance to examine the pay reforms introduced by councils across the country.
But Conservatives insisted Birmingham City Council had dealt with salary reviews more effectively than other authorities. Pay reviews known as Single Status reviews have been introduced by councils across the country, in response to Equal Pay Legislation which demands men and women receive equal salaries for equivalent jobs.
They are designed to end years of discrimination caused by councils agreeing to pay bonuses to workers in traditionally male occupations, but not to workers in jobs usually done by women.
The result was that men frequently earned far more than women even though their jobs were considered to be of equivalent status.
In Birmingham, the new pay grades mean that hundreds of social workers, care assistants and cooks will be better off - but about 500 council staff will lose between £5,000 and £20,000 a year.
Negotiations with unions over the reforms broke down earlier this year and thousands of council employees took strike action in April.
Refuse collections were disrupted and streets went uncleaned. Along with a separate strike by the National Union of Teachers, the action meant more than half the city’s schools were closed.
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Simon called for a day of debates “on which the House can scrutinise the abuse and misapplication by Tory, Liberal Democrat and nationalist councils throughout the country of Labour Government legislation?
“That could include, for example, the cynical abuse and misapplication of progressive single status legislation by the Tory-Liberal council in Birmingham in order to cut the pay of low-paid workers and clobber the pensions of low-paid council employees.”
Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell (Sutton Coldfield) said afterwards: “The single status negotiations were forced on Birmingham by the Government.
“I think Birmingham has done a very good job in mitigating the effects of some extremely difficult decisions. If you look at other councils, Birmingham has introduced changes with greater sensitivity and effectiveness than them.”
Alan Rudge, Birmingham City Council’s cabinet member for human resources, said: “He is guilty of ill-informed, stupid comments, or he is just not telling the truth.”
He said the single status policy had actually been agreed between the national Labour government and trade unions, and councils had been told to enact it.
“The Labour administration which used to rule Birmingham did nothing about it for seven years, leaving us to clean up the mess when we came in.”