SICK pay could be denied to Bury Council workers as part of a massive cost-cutting exercise.

Town hall chiefs have written to all 6,000 staff with details of the proposals, estimated to save £600,000 a year which, council bosses say, is equivalent to 40 full-time jobs.

If approved, it would mean all staff would not be paid for the first three days of sick leave. Overtime pay would also be restricted to an employee’s usual hourly rate.

Buy the proposals also include increasing the wages of the council’s 1,000 lowest-paid staff to £7 an hour.

The council says it has to shave £16 million before April, 2015, and the same in 2016.

Chief executive Mike Kelly has invited staff to air their views during a 90-day consultation period, after which the council will make a decision.

If the changes come in, staff would be asked to agree a change to their employee terms. Unions have been left shocked by the move, fearing workers could lose their jobs if they do not sign up to it.

One worker, who asked not to be named, said: “Denying us sick pay is the lowest of the low. What they are saying is that, if you get terminal cancer, or get hit by a car, it’s tough luck — you’re not getting paid until day four.”

Steve Morton, secretary of Bury Unison, which represents 3,000 local authority staff, said: “These are stunning proposals.

“It would mean people will come to work ill, spreading illness to colleagues and members of the public.

“If people turn up for work, they will be paid, so how will it save money?”

Mr Morton, whose members are due to strike over pay along with Unite and GMB members next Thursday, added: “We will consider the connotations of the proposals before deciding our next step.”

Council deputy leader, Labour Cllr Rishi Shori, insisted staff would get a say during the consultation.

He said: “These are very tough choices.

“I fully appreciate the position of the unions and staff. That is why we’re having a 90-day consultation period to have a full and frank exchange.

“We have to act prudently. Ultimately, if we don’t make the cut in this regard, it has to come somewhere else.

“People talk about being unfair. The staff I speak to think it’s unfair that a council like Bury is having to make £54 million worth of cuts and £32 million of that needs to be made in the next two years.”

Raising the salary of 1,000 staff and aspiring to pay all council staff the “living wage” of £7.65 an hour would help to encourage firms across the borough to do the same, added Cllr Shori.

Bury Conservative leader Cllr Iain Gartside said: “We are concerned about the effect these proposals will have on the low-paid staff in our authority.

“Our budget proposal to reduce highly-paid senior staff pay by 10 per cent could have avoided some of these adverse changes in pay and conditions for low-paid workers.

“Unfortunately, Labour chose to vote down this option earlier this year.

“However, we do appreciate that the council does need to make savings.”

Bury Liberal Democrat leader, Cllr Tim Pickstone, said: “The sick pay aspect of these proposals is most concerning. The idea seems to be very crude and could put pressure on staff to return to work before they are better. It’s very heartless."