Workers threaten to bring Aberdeen to its knees over compulsory lay-offs

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ONE of Scotland's biggest councils is facing the prospect of all-out industrial action over plans to sack a tenth of the local authority's workforce.

The leaders of cash-strapped Aberdeen City Council claimed yesterday they have been left with no choice but to make 900 staff compulsorily redundant after union leaders rejected their call for staff earning more than 21,000 a year to take a 5 per cent pay cut to fund an enhanced 3 million early retirement and voluntary severance package.

Outraged union officials, who have condemned the council's decision as "cowardly", are expected to call a mass meeting of the workforce next week to discuss plans for a campaign of industrial action, including possible strikes, to fight the compulsory job losses.

The Scotsman understands that council employees will also be urged by union leaders to boycott a staff appraisal system, which the unions claim will be used by the council to identify staff for potential redundancy.

Aberdeen City Council was the first local authority in Scotland to suggest that staff should take voluntary pay cuts. But with almost 10,000 council workers facing the axe across Scotland, it will not be the only council facing the threat of industrial action from disgruntled staff.

Tommy Campbell, the regional organiser of the Unite union, branded the council's decision to press ahead with compulsory redundancies as an "absolute disgrace".

He said: "The administration are acting like cowards and ignoring what the unions are saying and what the Scottish Government are saying - that they should be addressing this through voluntary redundancy instead of compulsory redundancy means.

"It is an act of total disrespect to their own employees and we will be talking now with the other unions about the manner in which we can resist this - including, of course, industrial action."

Karen Davidson, the Unison branch secretary, said: "We have already started the process for potential industrial action. There have been no negotiations. It was a political decision to demand this 5 per cent pay cut. It was either we accepted it or rejected it and our members have rejected it."

She added: "The workforce are deeply disappointed and disillusioned by the council's decision. The employer has treated them with contempt and it looks as if we are bound for confrontation with the council."

But Councillor John Stewart, leader of the joint Liberal Democrat and SNP administration, defended the decision to impose compulsory redundancies.

He said that the difference between funding a voluntary severance or early retirement scheme and a compulsory redundancy scheme was an additional 3 million.And he added: "I am not prepared to spend an extra 3m which will not save a single job or save single service of the council. It is madness.

"We have no choice but to go down this road.

"If people want to get angry, their anger should be directed at the Scottish Government and Cosla."