UNION chiefs learn today whether staff at Shropshire Council want to strike against the controversial firing and re-hiring of all 6,500 employees on lower wages.

UNISON launched an indicative ballot to learn if its members would take to the picket line after it was announced they would lose their jobs unless they agree to a 5.4 per cent pay cut.

Letters were sent by the authority to all employees stating they will be dismissed on September 30 but will keep their jobs and be re-hired on October 1 if they agree to the cut and new terms and conditions.

The authority is battling to save £76 million due to reduced government funding and says pay cuts would avoid it having to make 400 permanent redundancies.

A Shropshire UNISON spokesperson said: “All staff are now suffering from low-morale, many having worked for the council and serving the public for many years.

“All staff recognise we are living in austere times and that we need to make savings.

“UNISON agrees that savings need to be made now and have always been willing to negotiate and expect to have meaningful consultation.

“UNISON has already offered a number of measures including unpaid leave, voluntary reduction in hours, voluntary redundancy to reduce costs and have never walked away from the negotiating table.”

Shropshire Council has already cut away a third of its management, saving around £4million, with the remaining management and councillors having taken large wage cuts.

It is believed wage cuts for the remaining staff, being delivered in two rounds of 2.7 per cent, will generate a further £7million.

Council leader, councillor Keith Barrow, said the authority is on track to make the £76 million savings required over the next four years.

He said: “It’s a real challenge to balance our books in the current economic climate, because we have to make massive savings in a very short space of time due to the government frontloading our budget cuts.

“We are doing everything we can to make savings by reorganising ourselves and doing things differently rather than cutting services, which is why we are going to build up our reserves over a longer period of time to make sure we meet our savings targets.

“We are still very much committed to increasing our levels of reserves, because it’s important we have money available for emergencies such as major bridge repairs or road maintenance during a severe winter.

“But I think it’s right to increase the reserves gradually so we can have some flexibility in our budgets to allow us to make the huge savings we need.”

About 40 per cent of Shropshire Council staff are UNISON members.

The results from the indicative ballot will be counted today.