UNION members have rejected a final proposal to end six months of industrial action in Southampton over council pay cuts.

The union members voted three to two to reject the proposal to lift around half the workforce from wage cuts of two to 5.5 per cent brought in under threat of dismissal in July.

Other staff earning over £22,000 would have had part of their pay cuts reversed, although a two year pay freeze would remain.

Fewer than half the 2,400 members of the Unison, Unite and Ucatt unions balloted took part in the postal vote.

Unite members, including bin men, who were urged by the union to reject the proposal, voted 266 to 53 to reject it. Union leaders said a condition that a £12m legal claim was dropped was unacceptable.

Unite convenor Mark Wood said: “They have placed clearly unacceptable pre-conditions on this proposal, resulting in this resounding rejection.

“We stated from the start that promises from council leaders to protect jobs and services were false, but as even more redundancies are announced and plans for the wholesale privatisation of services are uncovered, we take no comfort as the unfortunate truth is revealed”.

The larger Unison union told its 1,600 members the proposal was the best it could negotiate. They rejected it 389 to 340 - a slim 49 majority.

Unison branch secretary Mike Tucker said: “The vote was influenced by the further 143 redundancies the Conservatives announced in October and the mass privatisation they announced in November.

“The Conservative controlled council is at war with its workforce as they continue to make them pay for a crisis we did not create.”

Union stewards will meet early next month to consider what further action to take following the ballot results. Industrial action is meanwhile continuing.

Council leader Royston Smith said: “Today’s result is hugely disappointing and I am sure that the vast majority of our residents will share this disappointment.

“The improved and final offer made by the council would have protected more than half of the organisation from direct pay cuts while protecting services by keeping our staff employed."