A DECADE-LONG dispute in which thousands of female workers at Glasgow City Council have been underpaid will see the finally local authority cave in to demands today – but the employees are being warned not to expect an automatic pay-out.

More than 10,000 employees and former employees have claimed a workforce pay and benefits review (WPBR) in 2006 discriminated against women in roles such as catering, cleaning and caring, and settling the claims could cost as much as £500 million.

However the decision to abandon attempts to fight the claim through the courts and Employment Tribunals is still likely to mean months of negotiations as the council aims to resolve issues on a sector-by-sector basis.

Today, the City Administration Committee is expected to vote against taking a case directly to the Court of Appeal, after the council was refused leave to do so last August at the Court of Session. A second option – of seeking to have the separate claims resolved through the Employment Tribunal – is also set to be ruled out.

Council leader Susan Aitken has pledged to end the dispute, and SNP councillors will be whipped to support the third option of negotiating with the unions and lawyers representing the women, with a view to resolving their claims.

Should the committee vote as expected, it would be against the advice of the council's lawyers who argue a Supreme Court case might be winnable. A briefing paper for the meeting says : "In their opinion, we have arguable points of law which may be successful," adding that they also recommended fighting on "because the amounts at stake are very large indeed."

However the council's leadership believe further court action has no guarantee of success and would increase a legal bill which already exceeds £2.5 million. Meanwhile resolving individual "equal value" claims through the Employment Tribunal would be likely to take a number of years.

Stefan Cross QC, whose firm Action 4 Equality Scotland represents 80 per cent of the workers with claims, said the outcome of the vote was not secure. "It is not in the bag at all," he said, "Nevertheless removing prospect of appeal is huge step to a fair settlement sooner rather than later."

Campaigners are concerned that Labour councillors are being allowed a free vote on the issue and several are known to support continuing to appeal. Mr Cross added: "Labour couldn’t agree a position and it’s a free vote with the former leader and his supporters backing an appeal. It still shocks me that some in Labour want to fight low paid women seeking equal pay."

The SNP group will need just one opposition councillor to support ending the appeal for it to be confirmed. Two Green councillors are believed to back this third option, while Labour's Matt Kerr, in a Facebook post, said: "I will not be voting to take the legal process any further... The broad legal position is now clear and it's time to get into the details in order to settle the issue.”

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: “The City Government is clear that they want this matter solved by negotiation rather than litigation.

“The City Administration Committee will decide whether to seek leave to appeal directly to the Supreme Court."

However he said meetings with unions to attempt to resolve claims would go ahead whatever the outcome. "Regardless of legal proceedings, the council and the claimants’ representatives are now meeting regularly and we have agreed a schedule of meeting for the rest of this calendar year.”