Southampton Council is facing a legal battle over its controversial plan to cut pay for social care workers and other staff by up to 5%.
Southampton District Unison Branch announced it will issue tribunal proceedings against the authority for allegedly pushing through the plans without proper consultation.
The union said Southampton Council will force staff to accept the cuts, of 4.5% for those earning £22,000 and £35,000, and 5% for salaries between £35,000 and £65,000, by 30 June or face dismissal.
Registered social workers, who earn £30,000 a year on average nationally, according to research by Incomes Data Services, will see their pay packets reduced by £1,350.
The council also plans to cut mileage rates from 54p per mile to 40p, freeze pay increments for two years and remove market supplements. Staff earning less than £17,500 will be protected from cuts and all employees earning less than £21,000 will receive a £250 pay rise.
Unison represents 1,000 social care staff at the council, and Mike Tucker, branch secretary, said the proposals had caused considerable anger among members.
“We’re moving towards a ballot for possible industrial action. Social care workers are reluctant to take any form of industrial action but given the wage cuts but there is strong support for our campaign,” he said.
Under the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act, employers intending to dismiss 100 or more employees must consult for 90 days before the first dismissal takes effect.
Tucker said the tribunal claim against the council will be based on the fact that trade unions were only informed on 7 February via a cabinet report that the council intended to dismiss 4,500 staff. He added that the council plans to issue letters to staff on 7 April informing them that they must accept the new terms and conditions by 30 June or face dismissal, which he claims will breach employment law.
Royston Smith, leader of Southampton Council, insisted the authority would carry out its budget plans.
“Despite having around 27% of its government funding withdrawn and consequently having to find £25m in savings in 2011-12, Southampton City Council has agreed to invest more money than ever before in roads and pavements, protect its libraries and leisure centres from closure, keep its Sure Start centres, maintain its weekly bin collections and recruit more social workers.
“Meanwhile the council still plans to spend millions to bring new economic development and investment to Southampton, which will help the creation of hundreds of new city jobs.
“To help find the required savings the council is proposing to cut up to 40 senior management posts, including two directors, and strip out bureaucracy. It is also working more closely with other organisations and councils to share services.”
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