Hull City Council's four-day week plan sparks strike threat
COUNCIL staff could go on strike over plans to cut their working week to four days.
Hull City Council argues the move will help protect 12 bin men jobs but a union insists the proposals are unacceptable.
It also claims the latest row is just the "tip of the iceberg" as council workers across the board brace themselves for more redundancies, reduced hours, no overtime and fewer expenses.
Local authority chiefs are having to compensate for the loss of £80m in core Government funding over five years.
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Adrian Kennett, Hull branch secretary of Unison, said: "The situation is dire. We are peering over a black hole.
"We don't know how the council is going to save all this money.
"Forget the 1970s, we are heading back to Dickensian times with food banks and soup kitchens.
"We have just received the final proposals regarding terms and conditions from the council and they haven't moved on anything. These aren't negotiations at all."
Mr Kennett has also warned there will be many more job cuts than the 600 recently announced by the council.
He said: "The 600 jobs going are pretty much set in stone but we have been told that, by 2015, north of 1,000 jobs could go.
"We are in for a major loss of staff. The figures so far released don't provide the full picture.
"Even the likes of the archeology department have been asked to reduce their hours."
Unison has warned balloting for industrial action is almost inevitable for the bin men, which could lead to rubbish not being collected.
The latest move follows the announcement that bin collections in the city will be switched from weekly to fortnightly to save £1m a year.
Mr Kennett said: "The council's management put forward a proposal for the refuse workers to go to a four-day week.
"We had an indicative ballot on whether the men were happy with this and they it rejected by three votes to one.
"There will almost certainly be a ballot of industrial action at some point down the line. We have a clear mandate to do this.
"We feel the proposed change in terms and conditions is, frankly, outrageous. They just want to tear everything up."
Mr Kennett fears that, even if the new shift pattern was introduced, jobs would go anyway.
He said: "The proposals are supposed to save jobs but we are very sceptical about this.
"We don't see how this will help save 12 jobs. The workers know what's coming down the line and none of this rings true."
Mr Kennett also insists there are concerns about the knock-on effects of a four-day week.
He said: "By changing the shifts, the workers are worried about issues such as childcare. They would also lose bank holiday pay."
Councillor Martin Mancey, portfolio holder for environment, argues the proposals are the best way to save jobs and deliver a good service.
He said: "Our priority is to deliver a customer-focussed service to our residents and to protect jobs at a time when the council has to save money and increase recycling.
"We will continue to work with staff and hold constructive consultation with the unions until a decision and resolution has been made.
"The worst case is the loss of about 36 posts. However, a new proposal is on the table to reduce those job losses to 24 if we can reach an agreement on new methods of working.
"If we can achieve this, all these savings can be met without resorting to compulsory redundancies."
City council leaders say agreement on flexible working is to the key to savings jobs.
A 40 per cent reduction in core Government funding from 2010 to 2015 has emptied at least £80m from the council's coffers.
As a result of Government cuts, councillors say they have no alternative but to propose radical changes to jobs and services.
As well as bin men, library staff are facing major changes, with opening hours at branch libraries being cut. Some staff are likely to be asked to work at more than one branch.
Council leader Steve Brady believes ongoing negotiations with trade unions over changes to staff terms and conditions are necessary to drive down costs.
He said: "We are trying to be reasonable and we are trying to save jobs.
"I think there is an understanding among most of our staff that we are trying to do our best with the limited funding we have been given.
"It's no good having double time or a higher-than-average mileage allowance if you haven't got a job."
The biggest cuts are likely to be in children's services and planning.
In addition, a dozen posts will be deleted as part of a closure programme involving three customer service centres.
A review of the 19-strong staff who operate the bridges across the River Hull has also been confirmed.