UNISON branded Cllr Glen Sanderson’s comments “wholly unacceptable” after the leader said he was looking to shave off around £1 million from the council’s wage bill.
Cllr Sanderson was speaking after figures revealed that the council pays 20 high-up employees more than £100,000 a year – the highest of any council in the North East.
In a statement to members, UNISON branch secretary Liz Sturgeon said: “UNISON are deeply concerned over the statement made by the leader of the council last week in relation to staff wages.
“The comments made by Cllr Sanderson are wholly unacceptable and gives the impression that staff are unvalued and over paid.
“Jobs within Northumberland County Council are fairly evaluated through the nationally agreed job evaluation scheme and it is inappropriate for Cllr Sanderson to infer that this process would be reviewed.
"UNISON have not been notified of any proposed change and would remind Cllr Sanderson that as part of the budget agreed only last month the council committed to no job losses.
“UNISON have had no information in relation to a change in staff wages and any such change would be robustly challenged.”
Cllr Sanderson explained that he hoped the money would be saved by implementing a new management structure.
Of the council’s six executive directors, five are currently serving on an interim basis.
Cllr Sanderson said: “The first thing I would say is I value our staff. There will be no cuts to frontline services this year.
“We do have a large number of interims and consultants who are helping and who are valuable – but I want a set management structure and that will help us to save the money. That’s in our budget that was agreed in February and I have to find it.
“I will not ask anybody to leave involuntarily. If there has to be redundancies, I will want them to be voluntary. The last thing I want to do is upset or hurt the staff who have been so supportive. That is really important to me.
“The savings will be made by employing full-time staff, mainly senior staff, instead of consultants and interims.”