Up to 20,000 Birmingham City Council workers are to stage a second one-day strike in the space of three weeks.

Unions have called a stoppage for February 26 as part of a continuing campaign against a pay and grading review, which will see about 5,000 council employees suffer wage cuts.

The date coincides with the annual budget meeting, where a new council tax increase of 1.9 per cent will be set along with spending plans for the year ahead.

In common with the first stoppage, on February 5, the unions have again selected a Tuesday for the walk-out.

It means the same families hit by striking binmen will suffer again.

The timing places the council's 41-strong opposition Labour group in a difficult position.

Labour members were criticised for boycotting the February 5 council meeting after they refused to cross picket lines. But missing the annual budget meeting - forsaking the chance to propose their own spending plans and to criticise the council's ruling Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition - would be unprecedented.

Ian Ward, deputy Labour group leader, said he believed it would be "in everyone's interests" for Labour councillors to attend the budget meeting. But he added: "We will have to discuss it with the trade unions".

Union leaders said they decided to call a second strike because the council was refusing to negotiate. The chairman of the unions' joint committee, Steve Foster, said: "Since the last strike, the council has not made contact with us. There have been no talks, no discussions and no progress. "

Mr Foster warned more sustained action, with more prolonged walkouts over several days, could follow.

Workers are taking action over a new single status pay and grading system. The five leading unions, Unison, TGWU, Amicus Unite, UCATT and GMB, have rejected the council's offer to postpone the new contracts until September.

Half the city's 40,000 workforce affected by the new pay deal took part in the last strike, according to the unions. All the city's binmen walked out, and about 160 schools were shut.

Alan Rudge, cabinet member for equalities and human resources, said: "My door is always open and I have told the unions that. We put lots of proposals on the table, ways in which we could mitigate the impact on people who stand to lose pay. But there has been no response from the unions. They appear to be only interested in going on strike. They don't seem to be interested in settling this."