BIN men facing a pay cut of up to £3,500 a year demonstrated outside a town hall in protest to the ‘potentially life-changing’ changes.
Darlington Borough Council is consulting on plans to reduce the pay of up to 36 members of its Street Scene department, in an effort to cut costs but ultimately save jobs.
The council is looking to trim almost £14m from its budget over the next three year, having already introduced deep budget cuts since 2010.
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Although the proposals will affect the wages of Street Scene staff – who are responsible for bin collections and litter-picking among other duties – no jobs will be lost as a result of the process.
Members of Unison and the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (Ucatt) gathered outside Darlington Town Hall before a scheduled meeting of the council’s cabinet on Tuesday (April 29).
The cabinet meeting – at which these changes were not an agenda item - was delayed slightly while some 12 Street Scene staff held an impromptu behind-closed-doors meeting with council chiefs.
Bob Wood, Unison membership officer for Darlington, said: “Some people are losing substantial amounts of money. Can anyone really afford that in the current economic climate?”
Unison regional organiser Mike Hill added: “In this day and age, with people struggling to survive, the level of cuts to be implemented by the council is not only a disgrace, but it’s also a potentially life-changing situation.
“These men cannot afford to take such a pay cut and they deserve more respect.”
Ucatt development officer Ray Sanderson accused the council of failing to engage in ‘meaningful consultation’ over the issue.
He added: “They seem to be picking on the Street Scene guys, when a fairer way of cutting costs more effectively may have been for every council employee to have forfeited a day’s wages.”
Council chief executive Ada Burns, who was among those to meet with Street Scene staff in private before the cabinet meeting, said: “We will continue to put in place opportunities to lessen the impact of the changes on individual members of staff.
“A number of staff are potentially detrimentally impacted by the changes; not surprisingly they are concerned about the impact of that.
“We have had in excess of 500 jobs go from the council in recent years, including senior management, which has been reduced by a third in the last few years.”