DOZENS of low-paid council staff are facing pay cuts of up to £2,000 a year, as part of a cost-cutting restructure, The Northern Echo has learnt.

Up to 30 members of staff in the environmental services department at Darlington Borough Council will see their working conditions change.

Unison, the public sector union, called the proposed changes unfair, saying the council has ‘got it wrong’ and vowed to help its members fight them.

The potential changes, which include a switch to a four-day week, came to light after an affected employee contacted The Northern Echo.

Environmental services covers a range of council functions, from rubbish collection, street cleaning, cemetery maintenance and dealing with dog waste.

Dawn Taylor, assistant secretary of the Darlington branch of Unison, said: “Yet again, our low-paid members are being squeezed the hardest, with continued cuts to their pay and conditions.

“It is unfair that those people who provide essential public services are denied a wage that gives them a decent standard of living.

“The authority has trumpeted its drive to boost local economic growth, that is why pay matters.

“Our community depends on people being in work and earning decent pay, pay that gets spent where we live, boosting local businesses and creating new jobs. The authority has got it wrong.

“Cabinet has agreed to move the lowest hourly pay rate to scale point ten.

“While they're giving a small amount to some with one hand, they're taking off others to pay for it.

“We welcome the small amount of help for the lowest paid, but it's still not the living wage.

“The branch will support its members at every turn and help them fights these cuts.”

A council spokeswoman said: "The council is continually restructuring its workforce to meet the challenging financial environment it is facing.

“There is a restructure taking place within environmental services and although there are enough posts for all existing employees and no proposed reduction in contracted hours, some jobs will change significantly, which will impact on salaries.

“There is the potential for up to 30 employees to see a pay reduction of up to £2,000 gross after a three-year period.

“There are also proposed changes to working arrangements, specifically to a four-day working week.

“These changes are as a result of plans already agreed, such as our amending the way we collect refuse and recycling.”

In January, the council approved changes to its rubbish collections – with general waste and recycling to be taken away on alternate weeks from October, saving some £400,000.