Street cleaners and rubbish collectors have had their Christmas bonus cancelled after turning down their employer's offer of a festive treat from a burger van, branding it a "Scrooge voucher".
Staff at cash-strapped TOR2 – a joint venture between Torbay Council and May Gurney which runs street cleansing, parks and refuse collection – complained that their annual yuletide gift had been scaled down from a free £20 shop at Morrisons to an offer of a bacon roll and a drink from a mobile catering vehicle.
Workers described the gift as a miserable "slap in the face" and said it would have been better to do nothing.
When unions received a string of calls from members complaining, they publicised the issue. The management has now scrapped the idea completely.
Paul Raybould, spokesman for the GMB union in Torbay, said members felt the move had reinforced a stereotype of bosses dining in luxury while workers gobbled down fast food.
"Our members were offered a £2 bacon roll and soft drink from a mobile catering van that comes to the Yealmpton depot yard in Paignton – they nicknamed it the "Scrooge voucher," he added.
"If I was an employer I think I would want everyone to have a meal – it is the done thing.
"If this is their idea of Christmas spirit, maybe we should have a whip round and buy them a Happy Meal from McDonalds."
Torbay Council has announced it plans to slash almost £10 million from council services in the authority's budget for next year.
TOR2 was included in the funding cut and is currently facing £500,000 in budget reductions, announced last week by council leader and Conservative mayor Gordon Oliver.
The latest row over company perks comes after NHS staff at the resort's hospital said they felt "insulted" when their long hours and dedication in helping to win a national award were thanked with the offer of a free Kit Kat from the office canteen.
TOR2 admitted it had now withdrawn its offer as the row continued to escalate with union members.
A company spokesman said the treat had been planned as a sandwich from a mobile hog roast and a cup of tea.
Peter Woodhead, general manager of TOR2, added: "I can confirm that due to the current economic climate and reductions in budget and workload, TOR2 staff will not be receiving any enhancements this Christmas."