FIVE hundred council workers have signed up to lodge multi-million pound unfair dismissal claims, saying they were forced to take pay cuts with a “gun to their heads”.
Bin men and up to 2,400 other council workers are continuing work-to-rule industrial action in a dispute over pay cuts of between two and 5.5 per cent brought in under threat of dismissal on July 11.
Unions are holding meetings with council workers over the coming weeks to discuss possible further walkouts after a 12-week period of legal protection for strikes ended on August 15.
Meanwhile, council officials have admitted residents should only expect fortnightly bin collections for household waste and once a month for recycling as the authority struggles to catch up with a massive backlog of rubbish from three months of strike action.
Steve Brasier, of the Unison union, said 500 council workers had so far signed up to join unfair dismissal claims against the council that could land it with a multi-million pound bill.
The union claims by failing to provide staff with an opportunity to put forward any representation or the opportunity to appeal against dismissal if they refused to sign up to worse contracts, the council failed to follow fair procedure.
A separate potential £12.5m legal claim that the council failed to consult the unions on its dismissal plans has been postponed again at the request of the council. A first hearing had been rescheduled for tomorrow.
After weeks of negotiations a “final” proposal to lift around half of the council workforce – those earning under £21,500 – from the pay cuts and restore some of the pay of higher earners was resoundingly rejected by a meeting of 600 union members on August 10.
All social workers would also have been given a pay boost to stop them quitting for better paid jobs elsewhere.
But a two-year pay freeze for all council workers would have remained.
Union leaders have warned staff they could be dismissed if they go on strike again after council leader Cllr Royston Smith said he was not “ruling out any options”.
The council insists the pay cuts will protect 400 jobs as it seeks to save £76m over the next three and a half years.
A council spokesman said: “The council is confident that all necessary procedures and consultation was carried out in the correct manner and we will challenge any claim in court and through the correct channels.”
The council is advising residents to leave wheelie bins out at all times as the regular bin collection has been thrown into chaos. The council is continuing to pay contractors to help with the clear-up.