eighty craftsmen and welders at Sheffield Council are being balloted for strike action in protest at being left out of a review of pay and grading which has left them £5,000 worse off than unskilled labourers.
The workers are on annual salaries of around £19,000 or less, despite having completed apprenticeships and qualifications.
Labourers’ wages have risen to between £23,000 and £24,000 under the council’s pay and grading review.
Sheffield Council said the problem had arisen because union representatives for the craftsmen refused to take part in the review, carried out in 2010.
The crafts department – all men – is based at Olive Grove depot and carries out painting, welding and fabricating work for the council.
Peter Davies, organiser for the GMB, one of three unions which represent the affected staff along with Unite and UCATT, said: “We have launched a ballot for industrial action including a strike, involving 80-odd workers who want equal treatment with other council staff.
“They were not included in the job evaluation process two years ago when labourers and other workers were. If you have served an apprenticeship and undergone training, you would expect to be on at least as much as a labourer.
“We have been very reasonable and asked the council for parity with labourers and no backpay but they won’t consider it.”
Mr Davies said the workers want to register the problem under formal disputes procedure because they are due to be transferred to contractor Amey under the £2 billion Street Ahead highways revamp contract.
The wife of one of those affected said: “This has now become very distressing to those involved.”
But Julie Toner, director of human resources at the council, said: “The pay of employees within Sheffield Council was evaluated in line with national agreements to ensure equal pay.”
She claimed the craft trade unions refused to enter the agreement which had led to the situation.