Unions reacted with fury after being told that 1.6m council workers face a pay freeze this year.
Leaders of local authority unions in Northern Ireland, England and Wales tabled a claim for an increase of 2.5% for workers ranging from librarians to refuse collectors. But officials were told by employers yesterday that pay was set to be frozen this year.
Union leaders called on council employers to think again, warning that workers would struggle to afford basic essentials unless their pay is increased.
Heather Wakefield of Unison said: “The decision to cut our members' pay without negotiation is a slap in the face for hard-working council employees who have kept local communities together through the financial crisis.”
Leaders of the three trade unions involved said they would hold urgent talks to consider their next move.
The employers said workers would not be offered an increase in pay from April to protect vital frontline services and help minimise the need for job losses.
The decision was taken after “extensive consultation” with councils in recognition of the “extremely tight” financial situation they faced.