Southampton Council has scrapped proposals for a 5% pay cut for all staff and offered to protect social care workers and other staff on lower incomes following protests from unions.
Support workers in social care earning less than £17,500 will no longer face cuts if unions accept the new terms. But registered social workers, who earn £30,000 on average, could still find their wage packets slashed by 4.5%.
Hundreds of Unite and Unison members demonstrated last week against the council’s original offer, which, in addition to the 5% pay cut, involved reducing paid working hours by two hours per week and cutting sick pay.
The unions threatened to ballot for strike action if the changes, which would have affected all staff including the council’s 140 social workers, went ahead.
On 26 January, the Conservative-run council issued a proposal under which pay reductions were calculated according to salary level.
Social workers earning between £22,000 and £35,000 will receive a 4.5% pay cut, rising to 5% for those earning between £35,000 and £65,000.
Employees earning less than £21,000 will receive a flat £250 pay rise as part of the deal.
“The biggest impact will be on those earning the most,” a council spokesperson said. “Those earning more than £65,000 will take the biggest percentage drop in their wages.”
The proposals also include reducing mileage rates, freezing pay increments for two years and removing market supplements. But the council has withdrawn its proposal to reduce paid working hours and cut sick pay.
The entire package will save the council more than £5m, which will contribute towards the overall savings target of £25m in 2011-12.
Mike Tucker, secretary of the Southampton branch of Unison, said the proposals represented a cut to the wages and working conditions for “the majority of council workers”. He accused Southampton councillors of “following the policy of the Conservatives in government of passing on the cost of the banking crisis to ordinary workers”.
Responding to Tucker’s comments, council leader Royston Smith said: “The unions repeat their claim that the country’s financial crisis is exclusively the responsibility of ‘greedy bankers’. The former Labour government borrowed billions, which had nothing to do with the global financial situation.
“By changing the terms and conditions of council staff we will protect over 400 jobs. The unions seem happy to watch their friends and colleagues face redundancy – I am not.”
Unison and Unite have decided to postpone the ballot of members while they discuss the proposals with staff. A meeting is due to take place on 3 February.
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