Southampton Council Dispute - Latest

Hundreds of Southampton City Council workers involved in a long-running row over pay and conditions have staged a noisy protest outside a meeting of the authority.

Unite and Unison said they wanted to send a message to a full meeting of Southampton City Council on Wednesday July the 13th that workers had been ''bullied'' into signing worse terms.

Council staff, including refuse collectors and traffic wardens, carried banners and huge balloons as they marched through the city centre.

The Conservative-controlled council announced on Monday that more than 98% of its employees had agreed to new pay, terms and conditions which came into effect on the same day.

Hundreds of council staff have taken industrial action in the past two months, with the dispute set to continue after unions accused the authority of ''ruthlessly imposing'' pay cuts on the 4,300-strong workforce.

Keith Sonnet, deputy general secretary of Unison, said:

''Sacking all council staff and re-hiring them with savage cuts to pay and conditions is grossly unfair and unnecessary. The council is telling the Government it expects to pile more than #4 million into its reserves - money that should be used to protect staff and services. Southampton council has also failed in its duty to carry out the proper procedures for staff to appeal.

''The council is ignoring the destruction this will wreak on hardworking staff and their families. Staff have already been hit with a two year pay freeze and are struggling to cope with the rising cost of living. Our members are outraged that the vital services they provide for the community are also set to be slashed.

''This fight is far from over - we will continue to take action against Southampton Council's devastating cuts, which can only harm the local community and economy.''

The council says the paycuts are necessary to protect the authority from 400 further job losses.