Council unions back 'short-time' pay deal

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A DEAL struck between trade unions and Sheffield City Council that will lead to pay cuts may prove to be a landmark among local authorities facing stringent financial cuts.

The trade unions and the council have reached partial agreement over short-time working which will give employees the equivalent of one hour off their working week or seven days' extra paid holiday in return for a reduction in pay of around 3.25 per cent.

It is understood to be the first short-time working agreement in local government and could prove crucial for Sheffield, which is facing enormous financial difficulties. The city will save about pounds 5.7m and the agreement should mean that the council will be able to set its budget before the national deadline of 10 March.

The decision to accept the new deal was taken after many months of dispute between the council and trade unions. The final voting was 6,464 in favour of the effective pay cut and 6,178 against. However, the council's works department has still to accept the deal, along with teaching staff.

Mike Bower, Labour leader of the council, said last night that he felt employees had shown a 'remarkable degree of commitment' both to 'their colleagues and to the community' by accepting the new arrangements.

The new deal may eventually save up to 1,400 redundancies and the agreement, which could be followed by other councils, is now expected to be ratified by the full council.

Paul Hudson, representing the National and Local Government Officers' Association, said that the agreement was a 'positive note'. People did not want to voluntarily give up money but they had done so quite unselfishly to protect the 1,400 jobs at risk.