More than 26,000 staff at Birmingham City Council are being given the opportunity to volunteer for redundancy.
A trawl of the entire non-schools workforce is underway as Britain’s biggest local authority prepares to cut £330 million from its budget.
The unprecedented exercise was approved by council leaders who are nervously awaiting the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review on October 20 when they will discover the extent to which services will have to be reduced over the next four years.
The council said it intends to approve a “controlled number of voluntary redundancies”, but is refusing to give a figure.
The redundancy appeal has split two of the largest trade unions at the Council House.
GMB described the trawl as a “positive step forward”.
But Unison said it would not support the exercise unless the council withdrew all plans for compulsory redundancies.
Caroline Johnson, Birmingham Unison assistant branch secretary, said: “How can we have faith in a council that says on the one hand it wants to try to reduce compulsory redundancies but then refuses to do it in practice?
“This latest act illustrates how out of touch and two-faced the council is.
“Unison will continue to oppose job losses as every job cut effects the services that we as council staff provide to the people of Birmingham. I urge the council to revisit their confused thinking and to avoid compulsory redundancies until the voluntary redundancy trawl is complete ”
However, Roger Jenkins, regional organiser for GMB, said: “We will work together with the council in order to avoid any compulsory job losses. The GMB sees a voluntary redundancy exercise as a positive step forward.”
The council confirmed that it would not withdraw a Section 188 Notice, placing trade unions on a formal warning that an unspecified number of compulsory redundancies are possible.
Council chief executive Stephen Hughes said: “Reshaping and remodelling services and aligning our workforce in order to meet our citizen requirements is the only sensible way forward.
“We appreciate this is a difficult time for all our employees and we are doing all we can to minimise the need for staff reductions on a compulsory basis.”
A council spokesman explained that all staff would be invited to express an interest in taking voluntary redundancy.
Some requests might be refused on financial grounds or if roles are critical to the council’s future.