UNION members were picketing council workplaces around Southampton today in the largest strike yet in a dispute over cuts to staff pay.

More than 1,000 council workers are today taking part in the one day walkout in the long running industrial dispute, They will meet for a rally in Guildhall Square at lunchtime in protest at pay cuts brought in under threat of dismissal in July.

The strike is the the first since three months of crippling walkouts over the summer.

Up to 400 social care workers in the Unison union and up to 700 members of Unite union, including bin men, are taking part.

They include social workers, occupational therapists, care managers, residential childcare workers, social care assistants and business support staff in both children's and adult social services.

The social care workers will meet later at the Sir James Matthews Building to consider further walkouts in a campaign to restore pay cuts of between two and 5.5 per cent forced on thousands of staff earning over £17,500. Staff also face a two-year pay freeze.

However in-demand child social workers are getting an extra £1,400 to stop them moving to better paid jobs with other councils.

The council insists the pay cuts will protect 400 jobs as it seeks to make savings of £75m over four years.