A COUNCIL has apologised after promising library staff, already facing reduced working hours, a major pay rise - only to withdraw the offer a few days later.

Durham County Council bosses wrote to library staff, thought to number more than 100, telling them to expect significant pay increases as part of a major job evaluation exercise affecting thousands of staff.

However, the workers soon received letters informing them a mistake had been made.

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Unison claims that mistake is worth £1,800 a year for senior assistants and £1,300 a year for assistants.

It is thought both sets of workers will still see their pay increase.

However, in a letter to the council seen by The Northern Echo, Howard Pink, regional organiser for Unison, criticised the episode as an “absolute shambles”.

Staff were angry, disgusted and disappointed and some believed it was not a mistake, but an active conspiracy to undervalue their roles and avoid improving their pay, he added.

Last night, Mr Pink said: “A group of low-paid staff who have been underpaid for a long time quite reasonably expected a decent pay rise.

“To get a letter saying that had been achieved and then another days later changing that decision – and that coming on top of a reorganisation that has led to loss of hours – was the last straw. They are furiously angry.”

The mistake comes as up to 250 library workers face possible cuts in their working hours, as the council considers reducing opening times to save money.

Don McLure, Durham County Council’s corporate director for resources, blamed an administrative error and said the council had already apologised.

He said: “Unfortunately, due to an administrative error, the first letters issued to library assistants were incorrect.

“As soon as the error was identified, affected employees were informed and new letters were issued.

“Job evaluation is a council-wide process, separate to the library strategy and is being carried out with the local trade unions with the aim of introducing a fair and simplified pay system for staff. We have apologised for the error.”

Unison is ready to help any of its members who wish to appeal against the council’s pay decision.

Final decisions on cutting library opening hours are expected next month.