Manchester City Council staff discuss strike vote

Manchester Town Hall
Image caption Almost one fifth of staff are being sought for voluntary redundancy

Two mass meetings of city council staff in Manchester are being held to discuss plans to cut 2,000 jobs.

About 900 members of the Unite union will be balloted on whether they want to take industrial action at proposals to slash the workforce by 17%.

Sir Richard Leese, leader of the Labour-run authority, said they had no choice after being forced to find £110m of savings in 2011-12.

Unite believes the cuts will have a "savage" effect on services.

The mass meetings are being held at 1500 GMT on Friday and Saturday.

The union believes it is the first ballot for industrial action by a local authority workforce in reaction to cuts in local government grants.

Unite regional officer Keith Hutson said: "Our members are very angry at the speed and scale of the cuts in Manchester, and the severe impact it will have on services to some of the most vulnerable groups in society, and on their own livelihoods.

"Unite will give an update to the members and chart a plan of action for the way forward.

"We also plan to co-ordinate our actions with other trade unions and community groups."

The council agreed to offer a voluntary severance package to staff at a meeting on Wednesday.

In a statement, a spokesman said: "Although we recognise it will be difficult we are confident that getting the number of people to come forward is achievable and we are working very closely with the unions through this process."

Speaking earlier in the week, Sir Richard said: "Because of the scale of the cuts, which originally we believed we would be able to make over four years and now we have to make in one year, we can't do that through natural turnover of staff.

"We have to get rid of staff very, very quickly but we are determined to do that on a voluntary basis."

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