Cash-strapped Leeds City Council has resorted to asking staff to consider volunteering to lose their jobs up to three years before they leave, in a bid to avoid compulsory job losses.
More than 1,800 Leeds council workers have lost their jobs since 2010, as the local authority aims to cope with overall spending cuts amounting to £145m over the last two years alone.
Union officials fear that after two years of harsh cuts, further staff reductions could impact on frontline services.
The council is set to shed another 1,000 staff before 2015.
Jon Smith, regional representative from the GMB union, which has around 8,000 members at the council, said: “All councils are really down to the bare bones, there’s not much meat left now. The issue is we are generally talking about front line staff and low paid staff and if they can’t leave, they can’t.”
The council is offering staff, who have been the subject of a pay freeze for the past three years, the chance to express an interest in leaving voluntarily at any point up to 2016/17, rather than simply for the year ahead.
If sufficient numbers don’t offer to leave, the council may resort to compulsory cuts.
Mr Smith added: “Our worry is maintaining frontline services and obviously for the staff that are left behind, they are under more pressure.”
Last week the council approved £55m worth of spending cuts and next year another £51m of savings are needed.
Rob Morris, acting regional secretary for UCATT, said: “This policy allows it to plan ahead and, in a difficult situation, we support it in order to avoid compulsory redundancies.”
More than 350 council staff expressed an interest in leaving the authority this year, which has led to a £4.5m saving in the 2013/14 council budget.
Coun Keith Wakefield, council leader, said: “The loss of staff members who have considerable knowledge and experience is always keenly felt, so the more time we have to prepare services for that, the better the end experience for service users.”
A Unite rep agreed with the unions’ sentiments, but Unison were not available for comment. Click here to register and have your say on the stories and issues that matter to you