Birmingham City Council has been accused of taking so long to cough up over a landmark equal pay ruling that some claimants have died waiting.
Thousands have been left without payments for years, according to law firm Equal Pay Legal.
The no win, no fee firm is currently pursing claims on behalf of 2,500 former and current council workers who were discriminated against up to 2010 – and expects that number to rise above 3,000 by the time a six-year limit rules out any future claims next year.
So far, many thousands of current and former workers, mainly female cooks, cleaners, teaching assistants and carers, have been given payouts totalling thousands of pounds each.
It followed a court case in which the city council admitted the staff had been unfairly denied access to regular bonuses, overtime and shifts given to those in male-dominated jobs like binmen and road workers.
The council has racked up more than £1.1 billion in claims since equal pay cases first started coming forward in 2008. It has so far paid out about half of this.
But Equal Pay Legal claims the council has been deliberately dragging its feet since late 2013 when it agreed to settle 11,000 cases with trade unions – leaving cases stacking up with the overworked Birmingham Employment Tribunal service.
A spokesman for the tribunal confirmed that the judge had ‘stayed' cases to allow the council to reach settlement. Although unable to specify exactly how many claims have been received, the service admitted it was certainly running to tens of thousands.
Equal Pay Legal claimed the delaying tactics include making deliberately low offers or even challenging cases – the council's previous attempts to oppose claims have almost always ended in failure and inflated legal costs.
Equal Pay Legal director Darren Smith said: "The council should stop dragging its feet over settlements and put a team of people on this to sort it out.
"Our clients have been made to wait too long and the backlog is growing. We even have cases where someone has died waiting."
Earlier this year, the city council sold the NEC Group for £307 million, partly to help fund the rising cost of equal pay settlements and, as it faces further cuts, some within the authority say the council needs to stand up to the ‘no win no fee' mentality.
But Mr Smith countered: "The council might say we are just acting in our own interests but we are representing people who have been discriminated against and denied their right to fair pay.
"As a public authority, the council, more than most, should uphold the law and has a responsibility to apply it properly. In these cases, they haven't.
"Instead, they have taken on three court cases against their own staff and lost every single one and now they are dragging their feet on settlements."
The firm, which takes 25 per cent of the settlement for handling the claim, is currently adding about 200 new claims every month. It is also submitting similar claims against Dudley, Walsall and Wolverhampton councils as well as other local authorities further afield.
The equal pay bombshell first dropped in 2008 when Action4Equality, a firm operated by Newcastle -based lawyer Stefan Cross, made the first wave of successful claims involving cooks, cleaners, carers and teaching assistants.
The city council believes it has complied with equal pay rules since late 2010, but Equal Pay Legal is going through its current job evaluation scheme to search for possible failings. Last year, the council struck a deal with the trade unions, through their law firm Thompsons, and is settling about 11,000 claims via them.
A Birmingham City Council spokesperson said: "This is part of an ongoing legal process and, as such, it would be inappropriate to comment at this stage."