A union official is being paid #91,000 a year by Birmingham City Council – and has been off work sick for about a year,

Ian Smith, a street and traffic light engineer by trade, enjoys a basic salary of #71,000 plus annual bonuses amounting to #20,000.

And The Birmingham Post can reveal that Mr Smith is still being paid by the council's Street Lighting Direct Labour Organisation even though he is off ill.

Mr Smith, employed at the Spring Lane depot in Erdington, still received a #15,668 bonus in 2005/06, according to leaked council wage sheets.

The additional money was described on the wage sheet as a 'stand-by bonus'. He also received nearly #5,000 for overtime.

Although he is described as a "signals" operative on the wage sheet, Mr Smith has for several years been the full time Amicus union representative at the Street Lighting DLO.

Seven years ago he was accused of endorsing "bully boy" tactics to frighten off seven private firms from bidding for a #13 million three-year deal to look after Birmingham's street lights.

Complaints on behalf of firms which withdrew from the bidding process were lodged with Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott's officials, who agreed that a letter sent to the firms was "intimidating".

Mr Smith said at the time: "We did not intend to intimidate anyone, we simply intended to protect our members."

The leaked documents, which detail wages and bonuses for scores of workers in the highways department, including #1,000 a week for a person employed to paint white lines on the roads, last night prompted the council to tell union leaders that the existing system of rewards will be scrapped on April 1 next year.

The unions have been given until the end of February to conclude negotiations with the council and agree a a new fair and equal pay structure under the Government's Single Status initiative.

If agreement cannot be reached, a new wage system will be imposed.

A Section 188 notice under the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act will be issued to about 1,000 employees in the highways and street services division. The statutory document allows the council to terminate existing contracts of employment and offer re-engagement on fresh terms.

Alan Rudge, the cabinet member for equalities and human resources, said he was not prepared to talk about Mr Smith or any individual case, but added: "Anomalies will be removed. We will have a fair and better system.

"People are entitled to a fair reward for their work, but this should apply to all of our employees."

Coun Rudge (Con Sutton Vesey) added: "Outmoded and unfair practices have no place in our organisation and have to be resolved."

A pay and grading review covering 40,000 council employees will increase wages for under-paid employees, such as office cleaners and school cooks, while cutting salaries for people who are deemed to be paid more than the job they perform warrants.

The council estimates that about one-third of workers will be worse off, one-third will remain the same and one-third will be better off.

Employees losing bonuses will have a proportion of their take-home pay protected for up to three years. It is also possible that basic salaries could be increased, while bonus payments are cut or removed completely.

Coun Rudge added: "If we can't resolve everything by the end of February we will implement our proposals. Of course, if it means going an extra few days to get an agreement we shall do so.

"The more we can do by negotiation, the better for everyone concerned. We will follow the process correctly and give the proper notice and adequate time for consultation and negotiation.

"That is why I have decided to extend the consultation process until the end of February.

"But if we cannot agree, steps will be taken to carry things forward."

He said the unions were entitled to be angry about the leaking of wage and bonus details. The council's audit unit has been instructed to launch an inquiry in an attempt to find out how the document found its way to newspapers.

Mr Smith and the Amicus union did not return telephone calls from The Birmingham Post.

>> The council street staff earning more than MPs

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