Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Southampton council accused of planning more than 1,000 job cuts

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Media captionRoyston Smith: "If they choose not to sign the contracts they will be choosing not to work at the city council"

Southampton City Council has been accused of drawing up plans for a further reduction of its workforce on the day mass pay cuts take effect.

The Unite union said it had seen a leaked report on council spending, which said a quarter of the 4,300-strong workforce could be cut.

The Conservative-led council denied it had any such plans.

It came as port health officers went on strike along with refuse collectors, librarians and other employees.

Council bosses are in a dispute with staff over pay and conditions, which from Monday saw those earning more than £17,500 a year taking a pay cut of between 2% and 5.5%.

Workers who do not sign up to the pay cuts by Monday could face losing their jobs.

Authority leader, Councillor Royston Smith, said the pay cuts would save 400 jobs so urged all council staff to report for work.

'98% signed'

Mr Smith said he was "disappointed" strike action was being taken as attempts to resolve the situation were ongoing.

By Monday evening, the council said more than 98% of staff had signed and agreed to their new pay terms and conditions.

A spokesman said: "Around 70 people are still to sign and the council is hopeful that these people will sign this evening.

"Meanwhile the council is actively seeking new talks with trade unions in an attempt to end industrial action.

Image caption Rubbish has gone uncollected across much of Southampton since 23 May

"Trade unions have indicated that they would be prepared to negotiate and we are confident that by working together we can end this dispute, get the best deal for staff and get back to work providing excellent services for our residents."

The council also said it had 10 refuse trucks with agency staff working to collect "as many bins in the city as possible" this week, as many residents had not had refuse collected since 23 May due to the action.

Steve Brazier, Unison regional manager, said the council appeared to have changed its stance by moving the deadline for workers to agree to their new conditions, from Monday morning to Monday evening.

He said: "The unions always recommended people sign the new contracts otherwise they would be out of a job."

He added Unison and Unite would not have final figures for those who had not signed until Tuesday, but any dismissals as a result would be considered "illegal and unfair".

He said about half a dozen social workers had not reported for work on Monday.

'Devastating'

"We are starting to collate claims for unfair dismissal," he said.

Earlier, Unite bosses described as "devastating" the new internal council report that outlines plans to set aside £5m a year for redundancies between 2012-14.

The union claims the report indicates plans for redundancies will increase year-on-year, with 361 posts going next year, rising to 725 by 2013 to a total of 1,224 in 2014.

Mr Smith said the council was not planning further cuts.

He said the numbers seen in the report were simply used to illustrate how much the council would need to save.

"The report states: 'Clearly the savings will not all be found from 100% post reductions'," he added.

Workers are expected to march through the city on Wednesday and to stage a protest outside a meeting of the full council.

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