UNION leaders have been condemned for "putting vulnerable people risk" as thousands of Glasgow women prepare for a strike in an equal pay dispute with the city council.

A ballot by GMB Scotland of members including care workers, school cleaners and caterers employed by council service provider Corida returned an "overwhelming" 98 per cent support for strike action.

Home care and schools would be affected by any strike. Dates are still to be confirmed.

The union canvassed the views of women delivering home care, school cleaning and catering services across Glasgow.

GMB Scotland represents about 2,000 of an estimated 10,000 women who have been pursuing equal pay claims against for more than ten years.

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Unison, which represents about 3,000 workers with claims, is still in the process of a strike ballot which closes next week.

But the city council say they were preparing to reach a negotiated settlement and condemned the strike threat.

A city council spokesman said: “The union has asked its members to back strike action on the basis of a schedule of negotiations it not only agreed but signed up to on their behalf.

“The council has committed to make an offer in December, which it will do, and we are committed to discuss the component parts of the offer prior to that.

“The union also knows full well that strike action cannot possibly make this process move any faster. Putting vulnerable people at risk by calling a strike which cannot change the timescale claimants agreed to cannot be justified.”

But GMB Scotland organiser Rhea Wolfson said: “This is a significant moment, not just in the long history of Glasgow’s equal pay scandal but in the fight back against institutionalised discrimination and sexism at work.

"Thousands of women who have been robbed by their employer for years have sent a loud and clear message to this council and to the country: 'enough is enough – it’s time to deliver what we are owed'."

The union had previously claimed that the council has cost taxpayers £50,000 an hour by failing to settle the dispute.

They believe the bill for 'discriminating' against the women over more than a decade could top £500 million, a claim the council said was not accurate.

But Scotland's public spending watchdog warned of Glasgow's "unprecedented" financial challenge and Susan Aitken, the leader of Glasgow City Council admits that payouts to the female workers would have a "very significant impact on the council" for many years to come.

The GMB last month issued a seven-day notice for a full industrial action ballot of their members who work for Cordia – an arm’s-length branch of the council who provide care for 87,000 people and deliver catering and cleaning in schools.

They claimed then that the council scrapped proposals for a negotiated settlement of second wave equal pay claims with the joint claimant group.

GMB Scotland organiser Hazel Nolan added: “Over the last ten months the joint claimant organisations have sat with council officials to try and start a process of negotiation that would deliver settlements for our members, but we have been stonewalled since day one.

"There is no confidence in this process among our women and without cast-iron guarantees from the council that meaningful negotiations can be revived then Glasgow is facing waves of industrial action across key services in the coming weeks and months.”

In January, the council leader promised to draw a line under years of legal wrangling over equal pay and reach a settlement with thousands of workers.

The claims relate to a Job Evaluation Scheme introduced in 2006, which had been intended to eliminate gender pay inequality.

However, the new system built in a three-year payment protection for men who lost out on bonuses, which was last year ruled discriminatory.

A long court battle has also raged over the design of the scheme itself.

It saw mainly female workers, in jobs such as caterers, cleaners and care assistants, paid less than male workers in jobs that were deemed to be of equal value, such as refuse collection.

After years of employment tribunal and court battles, the council said earlier this year that "negotiation" would solve the dispute.