Salford cuncil is set to "streamline" its digital department in a shake-up of the service which will see the number of jobs halved from 36 to 18.

The move means 29 employees will receive an increase in pay and four new graduate posts will be created as part of the Project X ICT Redesign which aims to plug a gap in the department's budget costing close to £600,000.

The local authority says that most staff will benefit from the restructure.

But Steve North, Salford's UNISON branch secretary, said the trade union has lodged a formal trade dispute and is prepared to strike if this is not resolved.

He said: “We are still at the stage where we are trying to resolve it through local discussion.

“Preparations are being made to resolve that dispute. We are not ruling out industrial action. There is a very real possibility of industrial action."

The council says that no compulsory redundancies will be necessary, with some staff volunteering to stand down – but the union remains unconvinced.

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The local authority maintains that there will be no loss in pay in any substantive post, but there are two members of staff who had been temporarily "acting up" and may be worse off as a result of the changes.

The trade union is also concerned about bigger workloads for the workers.

Mr North added: “It’s fair to say that our concerns at this stage are around forceable loss of pay and the question of whether there will be enough staff within that service to deliver that structure.

“Members are saying it’s tight anyway. Now it’s going to be virtually impossible."

The new structure was agreed at a workforce panel meeting this week - against the union's wishes - but the changes are yet to be implemented.

Debbie Brown, Salford council's director of service reform and development, explained why she thinks the restructure should go ahead.

She said: “If we did delay the decision, there’s the continuing deficit that would create. But to be honest, there are so many staff who are due to benefit from this restructure. I’ve had a number of approaches from staff who are very, very keen to see this get approved and for us to start on with its implementation.

"So I think it would create a fair amount of disappointment and ill feeling against the majority of the team there who are very keen to see this implemented."

Speaking at the meeting on Tuesday, councillor Bill Hinds confirmed that he and councillor Barbara Bentham held talks with the trade union last week.

He said: “They would like us to delay the decision today, but quite honestly I don’t think anything would be gained on that."

Speaking after the meeting, which was held by video conference, Mr North said the union is still in talks with the council, but considering industrial action.