12 May 2000
The Department of Health and the MSF union agreed a £12m payout after 351 therapists won their claim for equal pay through the European courts after a 15-year fight. It is the largest settlement under an equal value claim.
Most of the therapists are women, and they successfully argued that their work was of equal value to the male-dominated and better remunerated profession of clinical psychology.
NHS employers and unions are currently negotiating a new pay system under an initiative known as Agenda for Change. A few weeks ago Health Secretary Alan Milburn ordered the parties to come to a conclusion before the end of July, so that the costs could be allocated from Spending Review monies.
Andrew Foster, the Confederation's human resources panel chairman, said the negotiations must lead to a coherent structure. 'If the Treasury needed any reminding that do nothing does not equal cost nothing, this is eloquent proof,' he said. 'I presume there are a vast number of people waiting in the wings to see what happens with Agenda for Change.
'We must get it right because it is far better to have a systematic approach than guerrilla warfare in industrial tribunals.'
MSF general secretary Roger Lyons said: 'This a great victory for our speech and language therapist members and it's a great victory for working women in every profession.'