DURING International Women’s Day last week, inevitably one of the big, most talked about issues was equal pay.

And the latest twist in the decade-long equal pay fight of around 11,500 women who worked or still work for Glasgow City Council shows just how deep the discrimination goes. It also highlights how complex – and expensive –compensation can be.

New SNP Council leader Susan Aitken has commendably pledged to end the dispute, and when councillors voted last month to negotiate a settlement, there was a sense of relief among many of the claimants - the majority of whom are in low-paid, predominantly female positions such as carers and cleaners – that a resolution could at last be on the cards, albeit one likely to cost in the region of £500m.

News that lawyers and unions representing the women are demanding the claims be made pensionable, however, means the already eye-watering bill could yet rise exponentially, possibly towards the £1 billion mark.

The argument of the women and their representatives is clear. They believe that as well as being given compensation for underpayment and a salary re-grade, the re-rate should also apply to pensions. This would mean some women who previously didn’t earn enough to get a pension would qualify, while others would be applicable for more generous lump sums and monthly payments.

The consequences and importance of this becomes particularly clear when recent changes to Council pension schemes are taken into consideration. Until 2015, workers had final salary schemes, but since 2015 this changed to a defined benefit pension which relies on career earnings.

It is also worth noting that the equal pensions gap is even bigger than the pay gulf, since many women take career breaks and work part-time in order to look after their families, which historically left them open to yet another layer of discrimination when it came to the state pension. As one of the women’s representatives commented, such discrimination is “baked-in for life”.

Think, too, of the wider economic damage this discrimination has done – if these women had had more money in their pockets, not only would they have been better able to look after their families, but they would have had more to spend in the wider economy.

With this in mind, the strong words we heard last week on International Women’s Day it must mean something: the Glasgow claimants and those at other local authorities are the victims of institutional sexism and gender discrimination and they must now be fairly compensated.

In saying that, it is difficult to see how this can and will happen at a time when Glasgow City Council, like the majority of other local authorities in the Scotland, is already buckling under the strain of austerity.

Justice, in this case, will likely cost the city’s citizens - including many of the claimants themselves - dear, in terms of the impact on frontline services and/or their council tax bills. But an alternative where the women lose out yet again is unthinkable.

The more we hear about the failure of previous administrations to tackle the issue, the more bitter the taste in the mouth. If a fair structure had been put in place back in 2006, or if councillors had dealt with the situation in the years that followed, we would not be in this disgraceful, untenable situation.

Every day that goes by without a solution, meanwhile, sees the bill go up even further. It is thus more imperative than ever that a fair and timely solution is agreed upon by both parties. Justice for the women and the future of the country’s biggest local authority both depend upon it.