More than half of the 15,000 staff employed by Northamptonshire County Council have been told to expect a pay freeze or cut next year.
A large-scale review of salaries will see 28 per cent of council staff take a pay cut in April 2011, while a further 28 per cent will have their pay frozen.
At the same time 44 per cent of employees will see their pay rise.
The pay cuts and freezes will affect workers ranging from those on the council's lowest pay rate of 12,145 up to those on 45,990.
It is being carried out because the Government wants all councils to make sure all pay to staff is fair and equal – so staff are not underpaid or overpaid – under the national Single Status Agreement.
Senior managers, teachers, firefighters and further education tutors have not been included in the review, but workers in all other sectors have been.
There will not be an upper or lower limit on pay cuts, and each department will be considered on an individual basis.
A nursery nurse from Kettering, who asked not to be named, stands to
lose 5,000 a year, one third of her salary. The cut will be imposed by changes to her salary which mean she would no longer be paid during the summer holidays.
She said: "A lot of counties have done this and they need to make it fair, which I understand.
"But to take 5,000 from someone's wages in a year is a difficult one to take. It makes me think 'can I afford to stay in the house I'm in?'
"Some people will benefit from this, but I feel as one of the most poorly paid people it is a lot of money to take away.
"The only loan I have is my mortgage. But how are people who have lots of other loans going to find it?
"I have been devalued and that hurts more than anything."
UNISON branch secretary Steve Bennett, who is another council worker who stands to lose out, said: "It is not just the pay – they have drastically altered the terms and conditions, too.
"I thought my pay would go down by five per cent but it has gone down by at least 20 per cent.
"This is supposed to be a review to do with equality but I think the county council is using it as a means of saving money. It will be done at a saving or zero cost.
"I expect there will be union action as a result of this."
Deputy county council leader Joan Kirkbride admitted people facing a cut would consider quitting the council, but she had no concerns over a mass exodus.
She said: "It will be traumatic for the 28 per cent who face a reduction in their wages. "But when you have a review like this there are bound to be losers and we're fully aware some people may decide to move on because they don't want to work for their new rate of pay. There was a huge consultation and because of the variety of work there is nothing being done across the board. Each group of jobs will be looked at individually.
"It's about paying a fair wage for a fair job. We don't anticipate large numbers will leave. There's quite a large turnover of staff all the time so we don't anticipate any problems at all."