Dozens of jobs facing the axe at Sunderland City Council

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FAMILIES across Sunderland face a miserable Christmas as about 50 workers will be told they could lose their jobs.

The employees – part of a scheme designed to avoid redundancies among Sunderland City Council staff – have been told the initiative will come to an end in March.

The Staff Working in Transition and Change team (Switch) was once made up of more than 350 people and launched to avoid mass-redundancies as part of an external recruitment freeze. It aimed to help staff into new roles.

The Echo understands that the 50 or so remaining staff, for whom new roles have yet to be found, will shortly receive official letters confirming the end of the Switch.

And after two years of failing to find new jobs for staff, it is feared little more can be done in the remaining months.

One woman, who has worked for the council for more than 20 years, described the move as “a kick in the teeth”.

She told the Echo: “They called us into a meeting and told us the news. Everyone was stunned.

“A lot of us have families and to be told this in the run up to Christmas, is a real kick in the teeth. They said they will still look for jobs for us, but we have been in Switch for more than two years. We’re not going to get jobs now.”

Sunderland Unison branch secretary Diane Peacock said: “Unison has fully supported the Sunderland way of working and three-year Switch project, which was set up to avoid redundancies in the face of Government budget cuts.

“The branch has supported our members in finding alternative posts within the authority, and will continue to do so.

“Every redundancy is a personal tragedy, and losing a job at this time of year in particular is a massive blow.

“We are aware that around 50 staff will receive letters before Christmas notifying them of potential redundancy, and any redundancies will take effect at the end of March 2014.

“This gives us time to work with our members and the council to find employment for as many of those affected as possible. So we expect the final figure to be much lower.”

Sunderland City Council declined to comment.