DISMISSAL notices have been issued to hundreds of Derbyshire County Council staff after they missed the deadline to accept new pay deals.
Workers were given until December 31 to agree to changes under the authority's single status pay review, which aims to ensure people with similar skills are equally rewarded, but the authority said 787 permanent staff and 813 relief and temporary staff had not accepted and notices of dismissal had been sent out – together with letters giving them a last chance to sign up.
Under the review, around 3,500 people will see their basic pay cut, including care workers, child centre workers, support workers and library assistants.
The revised pay scales will also mean some workers get a rise in their salaries. These include catering, social work and learning support assistants.
Gary Ransford, chairman of Derbyshire County branch of the union Unison, which is based on Smedley Street in Matlock, said: "All this nonsense about dismissals and sacking people has caused a lot of panic for nothing.
It has been an arm-twisting tactic to get people to sign up to and undercut the negotiations with the union. New contracts have been sent out with dismissal notices and the council is saying sign them and everything is forgotten."
The union asked its members to attach notes to acceptance letters, saying they were agreeing under protest. But the council said they would not accept these agreements and sent out dismissal notices. Unison then told its members to retract the note.
Mr Ransford said the union had now registered a dispute with the authority to challenge the contracts which he said had been enforced on people under duress. He said once they had explored all avenues strike action would be looked at.
Employees who do not sign the contracts will only keep their jobs until March 31.
Nick Hodgson, chief cxecutive of the county council, said: "It has been a difficult time for the authority and our employees and I'm pleased that so many employees have accepted the position.
"This is the best deal we could afford. We have put an extra 10.1 million into the annual pay budget to help pay for single status and a further 6 million to protect all employees from a cut in their basic pay during the next three years.
"I hope all our employees will accept their jobs and continue to work for Derbyshire County Council."