Glasgow City Council has agreed plans to sell the City Chambers and Kelvingrove Art Gallery to settle a long-running equal pay dispute.
A sale-and-lease-back arrangement of some of the city’s most iconic buildings, first brought forward in 2019, has now been agreed.
The deal will sell the council’s HQ along with Kelvingrove Art Gallery, the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) and Kelvin Hall as well as school campuses at Sighthill and Gowanbank to a council-owned firm.
Councillors say the sale will raise over £200m of an anticipated total £270m to settle the remaining outstanding equal pay claims.
The equal pay claim, of around £500m, was fought for by unions Action4Equality, Unison, GMB and Unite in 2019 on behalf of predominantly female workers.
The remaining funding was raised as part of a similar sale-and-lease-back arrangement on council operational buildings in 2019 and held in reserve.
Councillors agreed to the sale-and-lease-back deal to the council-owned company City Property Glasgow Investments LLP during a meeting on Thursday morning of the City Administration Committee.
The council said the deal means buildings will remain in the city’s ownership and users will not see a difference in the day-to-day access of the historic sites.
Council leader Susan Aitken said: “I’m determined to deliver pay justice for thousands of women in our workforce.
“After a decade going round in circles in the courts, we made this a priority in the last council term and, in twelve months, reached a fair settlement through open and honest negotiations.
“This update is about putting the building blocks in place to finish that job.
“We are, again, making this a priority early in the council term and seeking to put right a wrong that has damaged the council, its workforce and the city for too long.”
She added: “Raising these kinds of sums is exceptionally challenging – and the high-profile properties involved, particularly in this second tranche, illustrates that.
“However, the city’s historic failures on equal pay come at a price – and releasing the potential of our property, while keeping it in the city’s ownership, at least protects services and the future of these valued assets.”
In response to the news, GMB Scotland Organiser Sean Baillie said: “This is a consequence of the council’s chronic sex discrimination of low-paid women workers and there will be highly paid unelected officials sitting uncomfortably in the city chambers today.
“Let’s also be clear this plan is to generate funding to support negotiations for interim equal pay settlements and not full and final settlements, which can only be achieved when the council has finally replaced its discriminatory job evaluation system.
“We would like the public to understand that our members are fighting for the return of money stolen from them by their employer – this is a long and hard battle, and their expectations are the council will honour its liabilities.
“That’s the very least these workers deserve for the discrimination they have suffered and continue to endure.”