Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Workers Will Pay for Colleagues' Wage Rise; Strike Action Threat as Salaries Cut

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Workers Will Pay for Colleagues' Wage Rise; Strike Action Threat as Salaries Cut

Article excerpt

Byline: Amy Hunt

CRIPPLING strike action could hit Newcastle City Council over pay cuts for hundreds of staff.

More than 5,000 workers are likely to get pay rises backdated to 2007 as the council attempts to bring in equal pay.

A report leaked to The Journal reveals the council is bracing itself for a bill of more than pounds 24m to iron out inequalities in staff wages.

But 1,400 council workers could see their salaries drop under the proposals.

Unions say 700 of these employees could experience a pay cut of more than pounds 2,500.

And headteachers will be told to raid their budgets to meet the cost of wage rises for non-teaching staff.

The city council is already making 510 workers redundant as part of its transformation programme in an effort to save pounds 169m over five years.

Council bosses last night insisted thousands of workers will benefit from the scheme, part of a national "single status" agreement made in 1997.

The aim of the agreement was to end the gap between the pay of men and women in council jobs, which were either identical or required the same level of expertise or effort.

But unions argue staff should not lose out because of an increase in their colleagues' pay packets and say they are prepared to ballot members for strike action if staff face pay cuts.

Kenny Bell, secretary for the Newcastle branch of Unison, said: "We think as a result of the introduction of equal pay no-one should have to take a pay cut and we will be mounting a vigorous campaign to make sure that is not the case. "On top of all the turmoil we have been through with transformation that there are potentially hundreds of staff who could face a pay cut is ridiculous.

"Industrial action cannot be ruled out if we can't come to a sensible solution."

Equalling pay will cost the council pounds 24.78m in back pay to April 2007, which was the deadline for bringing in equal pay, as well as annual costs. Thousands of staff should be in line for a pay rise, but others will lose out.

Schools will be hit with a pounds 5.43m bill which will have to be met from their budgets. …

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