Published: 17/03/2005, Volume II5, No. 5947 Page 8

Women who lodged the UK's biggest-ever equal pay award are about to win payments of up to£200,000 each in an out of court settlement.

The 1,500 women working at North Cumbria Acute trust each stand to gain between£35,000 and£200,000 each.

The union has waged an eightyear legal battle to gain equal pay and the offer will be recommended to members at a mass meeting next week. Equal value claims were lodged in August 1997 for 14 different working categories, using five different male comparators.

General secretary Dave Prentis said: 'It is been a long, hard struggle, but this is a fantastic result for the members involved. We have always argued that there has been historic pay discrimination in the health service against women.

'It is dreadful, though, that it has taken so long to get justice for these hard-working women who are the backbone of the NHS.'