UNISON and Unite stewards due to meet later today to examine detailed proposals from new Labour administration

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Unions in Southampton say they are close to agreeing a settlement in the year-long dispute over council cuts, which triggered a series of strikes by UNISON and Unite members across the city last summer and autumn.

Stewards from both unions are due to meet today to examine detailed proposals put forward by the new Labour administration since it was elected last May.

The proposals – described as a ‘complicated package’ – are not expected to be made public until later this month.

However, UnionNews understands they include a timetable to restore salary levels to thousands of public sector employees which were cut by the Conservative administration as well as compensation payments to dozens of council staff who were dismissed and re-engaged on different contracts.

If the proposals are accepted in a ballot of council employees during September and October, it could see some of the lowest-paid benefit from restored pay levels as early as November.

Higher paid staff will have to wait till 2014 before their pay levels are restored.

Negotiators say they hope to sign a joint statement with the council this week on the proposals.

Senior officials believe a majority of union reps will back the draft settlement, but they accept that it will not be universally popular – the measures to restore salary levels are tied to budget cuts elsewhere and the compensation for dismissals package is tied to the unions halting legal support for hundreds of other unfair dismissal claims which were tabled last year at the height of the dispute.

If stewards agree the current proposals, they will be published formally later this month, followed by a postal ballot of members, due to begin on 14 September.

In a confrontation which activists said was an attempt to ‘destroy’ the public sector unions in the city, the previous Tory-led council had attempted to effectively sack and re-hire more than 4,500 workers on inferior contracts.

Unite and UNISON were heavily involved in a political campaign to elect a Labour administration in the May local council elections.

Talks with the new council to try to resolve the 18-month dispute over cuts to services, staff and pay began within weeks of the election.


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