Almost 1000 council workers face a cut in wages in the latest attempt by a Scottish local authority to deal with the problem of equal pay.

Argyll & Bute Council has written to all 4350 employees outlining the restructuring proposal which will see 23% of the staff taking a pay cut.

While the plan means most employees will either have a pay rise or remain the same, 996 staff will lose out - although not immediately as current levels will be protected for three years.

The council is the latest to implement a national agreement by putting in place a job evaluation scheme to address the imbalances in pay. The authority says it is not cost cutting and the deal attempts to strike a fair balance.

However, union leaders, while satisfied equal pay is being addressed, argue insufficient cash has been invested to ensure fewer people lose out.

Chief executive James McLellan said: "This has been an intensive exercise over the last few years to bring former manual blue collar' and APT&C white collar' workers within a single set of terms and conditions and pay model.

"The council has put forward a proposed package which addresses the equality issues and strikes a fair balance among competing pressures.

"While for many employees the rate of pay will remain the same, there will be jobs where the rate of pay will increase and jobs where the rate of pay will reduce as a result of evaluation.

"In those cases where the rate of pay is reduced, there is provision for pay to be cash conserved for up to three years. Though in the nature of the exercise some employees will suffer a reduction in their wages, it is not a cost cutting exercise.

"The council recognises the workforce is its biggest asset and has made provision of an additional £1.6m to assist in the funding of Single Status, with the balance of the additional costs being met by a reduction of 140 posts over three years."

Under the plans, the biggest group within the council's workforce, a total of 1985 staff - making up 45% of the workforce - will be better off, having an increase in pay. Another 1366, (31%) will have no change to their salary while 23%, amounting to 996 staff, will see their pay reduced.

Argyll & Bute has set aside £1.6m to fund the deal together with job losses meeting the overall costs.

The plan also involves total staff being reduced by 140 over three years.

Donald Brown, Argyll and Bute Unison chairman, said: "We are not happy with how Argyll and Bute are implementing this.

"They should have put in more money to reduce the number of staff who will be in detriment.

"We are consulting our members and they will decide our final position.

"We saw an earlier proposal where there was more money invested and with some natural wastage there was almost no-one losing pay. But that has not been put forward."

A consultation with staff and unions runs until May 29 and staff have until April 6 to appeal their new grading.

The proposal comes as 13 of the 31 councillors in Argyll and Bute are preparing to step down before the next election on May 3.

Eleven independent councillors and two Liberal Democrat councillors are not seeking re-election.