Birmingham binmen are being offered wage rises of up to £8,000 a year to soften the blow of losing hefty bonus payments - but they will still be out of pocket even if they accept the deal.

The proposal, backed by the city council cabinet, has been described by union officials as a blatant attempt to buy off the refuse collectors before next Tuesday's 24-hour walk out by local authority workers.

But the extra money will not be enough to make up for the abolition of bonuses, which in some cases amount to £13,000 a year.

A statement by the five main unions last night accused council leaders of being more interested in breaking the strike than compensating for the loss of bonuses and urged members to reject the pay offer.

But Alan Rudge, cabinet member for equalities and human resources, insisted the proposed salary increases had nothing to do with the threat of industrial action.

They were tied to proposed major changes in the responsibilities and duties of the binmen and had been the subject of negotiations for more than 18 months, he said.

Coun Rudge (Con Sutton Vesey) added he was determined to get rid of the weekly bonuses, paid to refuse collectors regardless of performance. If the binmen were prepared to change working practices, assume greater responsibility and deliver a service "more in line with what people want" they would be paid more, Coun Rudge said.

He said: "This is a straightforward above-board attempt to deliver better services across the city.

'If you have extra responsibilities your job evaluation changes and your salary increases. The unions are upset that we may be doing something that is really good and they don't want us to stop them causing trouble."

He promised to carry on talking to the unions in an attempt to avert next Tuesday's strike, when 20,000 council employees are expected to protest against a pay and grading review which will see more than 4,000 workers suffer wage cuts and an end to the bonus system.

The five unions - Unite, Amicus, Unison, GMB and UCATT - have written to the binmen pointing out that by accepting a pay deal now the workers will lose any chance of regaining their bonuses at an Employment Appeals Tribunal.

Sir Albert Bore, leader of the opposition Labour group, said the binmen were "having a gun held to their head" because they were being told to vote for a pay cut of about £2,000 or lose more than £10,000 a year in bonuses.