HAMPSHIRE County Council has warned it may dismiss 5,000 workers and re-employ them on new terms without extra overtime and weekend pay.

County bosses want to stop paying time-and-a-half rates for employees working overtime and Saturdays in a bid to save £3.2m a year.

But Unison, which represents thousands of staff at the county council, says the cuts will hit low-paid female and ethnic minority employees.

Those who could see their pay packets cut under the proposals include 1,005 care assistants, 304 library assistants, 299 community response assistants and 214 residential care workers, say Unison.

Union bosses have refused the proposed new terms and asked to enter into a conciliation process through the Regional Council For Local Government Services or ACAS to resolve the dispute.

Peter Terry, regional organiser for Hampshire Unison, said strike action had not been ruled out.

Mr Terry said: “Strike action is a distinct possibility if the employer insists on imposing this. We hope to exhaust other channels before balloting our members for industrial action.”

“Our refusal to agree these cuts is largely because we believe the proposals are discriminatory.

Union officials say female employees affected by the changes will lose an average £488 per year, equal to 3.3 per cent of their pay slip.

But some women workers could lose thousands - as much as 10 per cent of their income.

Meanwhile a council Equality Impact Assessment shows non-white staff will have a three times greater chance of taking a pay cut under the proposals than white employees, says Unison.

The council is faced with £53m budget cuts over the next two years.

The authority is seeking to reduce its workforce by about 900 posts through a recruitment freeze as well as axing some 300 posts in children’s services, libraries and museums.

The authority has introduced an enhanced voluntary redundancy scheme in an attempt to reduce management costs by 25 per cent.

Council bosses say to avoid further job losses and minimise cuts to frontline services, savings must be made in workforce costs which stand at about £359m.