The main trade union for council workers in Brighton and Hove said that it was preparing for industrial action.
Unison said that it was taking the step because of arbitrary decisions during the Brighton and Hove City Council budget debate which had put members’ jobs at risk.
The Brighton and Hove branch of Unison said: “As a result of the Brighton and Hove City Council budget meeting, Unison is now preparing for a series of disputes with the employer to defend our members employment and services.
“While all decisions are now delayed to Tuesday 3 March, due to the failure of elected councillors to reach an agreed budget, it has become very clear that in addition to £20 million to £25 million of cuts, including several hundred posts lost, the political posturing of all three political groups, no doubt with the May elections in mind, is compounding an already disastrous situation.
“The joint amendment, from the Labour and Tory groups, agreed at the meeting, cuts five or six posts in the communications section, to ‘save’ the mayoralty.
“This information was relayed to staff and Unison officially at 12 noon on the day of the budget.
“This arbitrary decision takes no account of the fact that this cut is to real people who work hard to project the council in a positive manner.
“Unison will take strike action, if necessary, to ensure our members’ continued employment.
“In addition, the amendment refers to a reduction in contributions to the staff pension fund. Staff pay into the fund at a rate of 5 per cent to 7 per cent.”
Unison said that this was a move that no previous political group on the council had tried in previous years.
The union said: “While the amount is relatively small, this ‘opens the door’ for future cuts to pension contributions by a Labour or Conservative administration and is, bluntly, a disgrace to both parties.
“Any cut will hit the lowest paid, especially part-time women workers, who contrary to the depiction of ‘gold-plated local government pensions’, receive approximately £5,200 after 40 years’ service.
“Unison will take an internal dispute on this issue with (the council), and seek advice as to whether the move is legal.
“Whether it is, or not, the spectre of Robert Maxwell’s ‘raid’ on his employees’ pension fund comes to mind.
“The Labour Party’s amendment, number 6, reinstated three political assistant posts at the expense of four or five posts cut from the assistant chief executive’s section.
“Previously, all three parties had agreed that this was an acceptable cut. Again, with a few hours’ notice, staff were informed they may now be sacked.
“Again, Unison will take strike action to defend these members.
“There is, of course, an alternative, whereby all these people could be kept in employment – councillors could take a 20 per cent cut in their allowances, which are a mere £1 million in total.
“In overall terms, if there is a failure to set a budget on Tuesday 3 March, then there is a real prospect that the Conservative government will send in Whitehall officials to set a budget.
“The brief they will be given will be to arbitrarily slash services with a consequence of hundreds more job losses.
“Unison is very clear that the reaction of our members to such an intervention will be twofold.
“The branch membership will be balloted on total non-co-operation with Conservative-inspired civil servants and, second, that we will take all appropriate action to defend our members, the services of the people of Brighton and Hove and especially the most vulnerable in our community.”
Branch secretary Alex Knutsen said: “At the budget meeting, I was appalled at the cynical electioneering of councillors, with no regard to the interests of those they are elected to serve or the employment of their staff.
“Plainly, it is of no matter to some of them that our members are told, with a few hours’ notice, that they could be sacked in three months’ time.
“The members who put forward and agreed these amendments need to be reminded, and Unison will do so, that our branch is 4,700 members strong, and with their families account for some 10,000 votes on 7 May.
“If these proposals return to council on Tuesday, the branch will ensure that it is publicly noted who voted to sack these staff.
“Our members will, as they have done before, fight ‘tooth and nail’ for our people’s jobs and for our services.”