COMPUTER workers with Highland Council are facing pay cuts of up to £14,000 a year as the department is overhauled and the authority implements its job evaluation process.
The scale of the wage reductions has amazed staff, who claim they are being unfairly targeted because they are not in a frontline service and have little chance of finding alternative work locally.
Thirty-two information technology workers are undergoing interviews after their jobs were "deleted" and 29 new posts created. A single IT department has been established and the full-time jobs have different descriptions and been graded in line with the council's job evaluation process, which was ratified earlier this year.
One employee who has been on a fixed-term contract for four years says the lack of other IT jobs in the Highlands has left himself and his colleagues with little choice but to accept the move.
He currently earns £34,000 and is facing a potential cut of £14,000. "It wouldn't hurt that much if we were talking about £1000 to £2000," said the man, who asked not to be identified. "I know another younger colleague, whose wife has just given up work after having a baby is currently on £31,000. He faces a cut to £21,000. There are a lot of people who have got young families who are going to be really hit hard."
Unison's John Gibson said the IT staff had been hit with a "double whammy" because the new department had been created at the same time as the job evaluation process.
"This has been going on with them stuck in the middle," he said. "The timing has probably been advantageous for the council because people can't just walk out of jobs knowing there is not much else out there. We've had a lot of members contacting us to say their pay is going down and a lot of people are upset."
Mr Gibson, Unison's Highland branch treasurer, is himself facing up to a £2000 pay cut after 10 years working in the local authority's finance department and said about 12 per cent of council staff were facing up to reduced wages.
A council spokesman said the new IT department would provide a more effective service and the appointments would be subject to a ring fenced recruitment process, as agreed with trade unions.