A growing number of local authorities are dismissing staff and re-engaging them on worse pay and conditions as part of major cuts sweeping the country, outraged union officials revealed today.
Unite said a survey of more than 140,000 workers over the past four months showed a growing number were losing their jobs, having to work part-time, seeing their pay cut or forced to re-apply for their jobs on lower salaries and worse conditions.
General secretary Len McCluskey said the practice was "insidious" and proved again that British workers were treated worse than those in other European countries.
"This simply couldn't happen in France or Spain or Germany," he said.
Unite staged a protest today in Southampton, where it said the city council had decided to dismiss 4,300 workers and re-engage them on "massively reduced" terms.
The union warned it was considering an industrial action ballot and legal challenge against the council.
Workers who responded to the Unite survey spoke of having their pay cut by thousands of pounds a year and overtime rates slashed.
Services being cut or axed by councils across the country included old people's wardens, libraries, day centres for dementia sufferers, youth careers, fire stations. school crossing patrols, children's centres, police stations and domestic violence services.
A worker from Aberdeen said cuts had been "crushing", adding: "In many areas, namely in the field of mental health, cuts are making vulnerable, infirm as well as mental and physically ill people stay indoors rather than being able to get out and mix with similar people."
Another worker from Scotland said weekend enhancements and overtime had been stopped, cutting pay from £24,000 to £18,000.
Unite official Rachael Maskell said the UK's voluntary sector was facing £5 billion of cuts. And advice centres were closing, so that people facing cuts in jobs and services would have nowhere to go for help.