MORE than a hundred council workers are set for a five per cent pay cut as the county council tries to balance its books.

Worcestershire County Council is planning to cut the hours of 145 members of staff from 37 hours a week to 35 - a 5.4 per cent cut.

Staff are being consulted on the proposal, but risk being fired from their jobs and rehired on lower contracts if they don’t agree to the changes.

Budget papers show the council expects to save £500,000 through the scheme - but union bosses and opposition councillors say goodwill and morale will be damaged across the council’s entire workforce.

Worcester News: St John's councillor Richard UdallSt John's councillor Richard Udall

According to Unison, a trade union for local government workers, 95 affected members of staff work in the council’s economy and infrastructure section.

Members of the people’s team and some working in the chief executive’s unit are also affected.

Jack Kay, regional organiser for Unison West Midlands, said: We are very disappointed with Worcestershire County Council’s decision, and particularly the use of ‘fire and re-hire,’ when they know we are not going to be able to agree to these changes.

“We’ve seen similar methods from British Gas and P&O and we saw the public’s reaction to those decisions. It’s very disappointing that a local authority is going to follow a similar route.

“This isn’t just going to impact the 145 members of staff in question. It will have a wide-ranging effect across the county council. Every other staff member is going to be wondering ‘is it us next?’.

Mr Kay is meeting with members of staff next week and when it comes to fighting the proposals, he isn’t ruling anything out.

“We’ll be led by our members,” he said. “We will do everything in our power, even if that means a formal dispute. We are still in the middle of a cost of living crisis.”

Labour councillor Richard Udall is calling for the process to be suspended and is seeking a full member review of the proposal.

“The policy is outdated, wrong and cruel,” he said. “Many of the staff are already on low pay, for many it will damage their pensions and will force them into poverty.

“Some have already told me they will have to seek Universal Credit just to get by, forcing the state to subsidise county council pay.

“This is not the way to treat hard-working loyal staff, it will demoralise them, undermine productivity and damage service delivery, it’s not in the long-term interest of the Council Tax payer.”

A spokesperson for the council said: “We are currently in consultation with approximately 150 staff (less than six per cent of the workforce) on the council’s reduced working hours strategy which was introduced in 2011.

“Officers leading the consultation have been in dialogue with the council’s recognised trade unions both prior and throughout the process and this is being done in accordance with the council’s policies. 

“The council remains committed to full and meaningful consultation and always aims to achieve agreement to any proposals it makes.”