A Council is facing a record equal-pay bill of more than £100 million, after agreeing to final settlement talks following years of resisting claims from 3000 female staff.

Labour-run South Lanarkshire, which lost a related case at the UK Supreme Court, has caved in to growing pressure and agreed to three months of discussions, rather than resume Employment Tribunal hearings in Glasgow next month.

Similar cases cost Glasgow City Council more than £50m several years ago and although South Lanarkshire is a smaller authority it is believed its refusal to settle going back many more years, and more serious breaches of equal pay, could see the council pay a heavier price.

The lawyer representing the women, Stefan Cross, QC, of Action 4 Equality (Scotland), said: "This is a very significant development. It is, however, only the first step with no guarantees of success."

The council's U-turn follows its recent loss of a crucial appeal case at the UK Supreme Court.

In the first case of its kind involving a Scottish public body, the council had asked the court to overturn an order by the Scottish Information Commissioner to release pay data under the Freedom Of Information Act.

The Court Of Session, ­Scotland's highest court, had already ruled the information should be released to equal pay campaigner Mark Irvine, but the council refused, ultimately landing it with a £200,000 legal bill.

When the data was released, it suggested male manual workers had been systematically paid more than female staff with the same skill levels, despite the two groups in theory being paid the same hourly wages.

Council leader Eddie McAvoy, who has been in office since 1999, throughout the time of the unfair pay, faces calls to resign.

The council is already being taken to a tribunal by 3000 female workers claiming more than £10m in back pay, with a hearing due in October.

Mr McAvoy said: "I am pleased there have been positive moves on this issue and I look forward to further progress being made."

Carol Fox, of Fox and Partners, who is also representing some of the women, said: "We are always focussed on the needs of our claimants and hope we can agree favourable terms in the near future."

Mr Irvine said: "Goodness knows what the trade unions will make of this development, after siding with the council all these years and actively discouraging their lowest paid members from submitting equal pay claims.

"In my view, the trade unions in South Lanarkshire should hang their heads in shame, as they have no credibility with their members after their craven behaviour."

Agnes Mills, 66, a home carer, from Halfway, Cambuslang, is one worker who stands to receive a pay-out when the cases are settled.

She said: "I put in my claim when we heard about it in 2005 and I have been waiting all that time for an answer.

"I was a home help for 30 years. I remember a letter from the council saying I should speak to my union, but the union rep took the letter away as if I shouldn't have had it.

"Then I heard about men getting money and I joined the application. I remember at one point I had to sign a will form in case I died before winning. I thought I would die before I got anything, but from today I think I might win."