Southampton Council Dispute - Latest

Council workers embroiled in a long-running row over pay and conditions will stage a protest today outside a meeting of the authority.

Unite and Unison said they wanted to send a message to a full meeting of Southampton City Council that workers had been ''bullied'' into signing new terms.

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, including refuse collectors, librarians, traffic wardens and social workers.

Unions said today that the council had ''ruthlessly imposed'' pay cuts on the 4,300-strong workforce, warning that other local authorities could follow suit because of the Government's reduction in public spending.

Councillor's insist the cuts are needed to help protect around 400 jobs.

Ian Woodland, Unite's regional officer, said ahead of the march: ''This is our chance to tell Royston Smith, the Tory council leader, and his deputy leader Jeremy Moulton, who have led this ideological attack on their own public servants, to talk about a solution.

''The leadership of this council are misusing this office to bully working men and women out of their jobs. If he gets away with this, Tory councils across the country will seek to do the same.

''Southampton Council workers are standing up against these draconian acts because they will not be beaten into submission.''

The council said it was actively seeking new talks with the unions in an attempt to end industrial action, adding:

 ''Trade unions have indicated that they would be prepared to negotiate and we are confident that by working together we can end this dispute, get the best deal for staff and get back to work providing excellent services for our residents.

''The council will do all it can to collect as many bins in the city as possible this week, with up to 10 trucks collecting rounds,'' the authority said in a statement.