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More council strikes 'would break law'.

TRADE unions may be acting unlawfully if they call further strikes over Birmingham City Council's controversial salary shake-up without putting an improved offer to a formal ballot, a senior politician warned today.

Coun Alan Rudge, the human resources cabinet member responsible for implementing the single status pay and grading review, said it was "doubtful" whether unions could rely on a show of hands at workplace meetings as a mandate for continued industrial action.

He was speaking hours after new contracts for 40,000 council employees came into force, marking the start of a slimmed-down seven-grade wages system.

But the largest union insisted Coun Rudge was mistaken in his interpretation of the law and threatened further walk-outs in the run-up to the May local government elections. David Hughes, the vice-chairman of UNISON in Birmingham, said the council had created a "legal quagmire" by imposing the pay and grading review even though 16,000 union members are refusing to sign contracts.

Many of the 24,000 staff who have accepted the new working arrangements did so under duress because they feared they would be sacked, Mr Hughes said. The new arrangements are designed to outlaw pay inequalities between men and women and end distinctions between blue and white collar jobs.

Almost half the workforce will be better off, but more than 4,000 employees stand to lose pay - some more than pounds 10,000 a year.

Coun Rudge is insisting the revised offer must be put to the council's 20,000 members in a formal ballot.

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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Apr 1, 2008
Words:259
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