Strike warning as Neath Port Talbot Council looks to save £21m
UNION leaders have warned of possible industrial action if pay and conditions take a hit to help plug a £21 million hole in Neath Port Talbot Council's budget.
The authority has revealed it is looking at a range of proposals to make up the forecasted shortfall between 2013 and 2018.
Services will be hit to the tune of £14 million and the council has warned it will have to reduce its staff costs by around £2 million, though it has no plans for compulsory redundancies.
Fees and charges and council tax bills are also set to rise to provide around £4 million worth of extra income to help close the budget gap.
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Unison branch chairman Mark Fisher said the union accepted Neath Port Talbot had to make the savings because of the austerity measures filtering down from the UK government.
But, he said, any proposals affecting salary grades, overtime and job numbers, were unacceptable as many of them would affect the lowest- paid workers.
"We are having a mass engagement of members to find out their views," said Mr Fisher. "But the initial thoughts of Unison are that our members have taken a 13 per cent cut in real terms over the last four years.
"Another percentage cut is unrealistic, given the economic climate we are in.
"If members do not accept the proposals then, as a member-led union, we will reject them and that could lead to industrial action."
Neath Port Talbot Council has pointed out only £2 million of the £21 million would come from reduced staff costs.
But Mr Fisher said many Unison members were already struggling to pay their mortgages.
"This winter many of them will have to make the decision whether to heat their homes or feed their families," he said.
Branch secretary Melanie Fender added: "Two years ago the staff made a voluntary contribution of two per cent of their pay in order to help the council during difficult times.
"We understand the council has to make savings due to the budget deficit, but these savings cannot come at the expense of our members' terms and conditions."