THE city council today is set to risk all-out strike action by telling thousands of staff to sign up to new pay deals or face the sack.
The council confirmed that it would enter a formal 90-day consultation period with trade unions on its "modernising pay" proposals, which affect 17,000 staff.
It said that failure to reach agreement would mean individual staff would be told to accept the process or face dismissal.
News that the council has opted to use a legal process to force through the changes is certain to anger trade unions, who have consistently rejected the proposals.
Unison has already warned that industrial action is likely across its 8,000 council members if the authority attempts to push through its proposals, which the union says will cut the pay of many.
Council officials today insisted that they had no option but to press ahead with the measures.
Jim Inch, director of corporate services, said: "More than 80 meetings have been held with the trade unions and significant concessions have been made.
"The trade unions have, however, informed us that they cannot support the final package.
"The only alternative to agreed changes to terms and conditions is imposing changes through this legal process, which many other councils have done."
The city's bin men and other manual workers who are members of the trade union Unite are currently on a work-to-rule over the effect that the modernising pay proposals will have on them.
The council is introducing the new working practices to meet equalities legislation. It insists that the arrangements are designed to provide fairer pay for all staff.
If no agreement is reached during the consultation, staff will be offered the opportunity to voluntarily change their contract in line with the proposals. Those who do not agree will be given a further 90 days' notice of dismissal.
Councillor Phil Wheeler, the city's finance leader, said: "The council must provide a fair, appropriate, flexible and affordable pay system for all staff.
The administration's door remains open for the unions for further discussions. I hope they will take up this offer."
THE city council drew up the new pay and conditions in response to equal pay legislation that allowed female employees to claim for up to five years of pay they felt to be unequal.
The changes meant that the council had to pay 15.6 million to around 2,700 female manual workers in 2006 because they didn't have access to productivity bonuses that the male manual workers did.
The proposals will see many staff given new job descriptions, terms and conditions, and comes after an evaluation of 17,000 jobs.
Staff whose pay will go down have pay protection for the first three years.