The council is one of many unitaries trying to iron out differences in pay between their aggregating districts. Personnel director Ian McLachlan said negotiations in housing are not finished, but staff are already worried.
One newly recruited housing officer, who wanted to remain anonymous, could lose £28 a week. He has a pregnant wife and a young child and will have to go back to his old plumbing job to support them.
Housing staff in the two districts merging to form East Ayrshire are currently graded very differently. Some are paid as little as £12,000 a year, some as much as £19,000.
The levelling of salaries is the result of a policy to merge three jobs into one - housing officers, repairs inspectors and estate managers. Staff will be trained over two years to perform all the duties covered by these three posts. The council will have a decentralised structure with neighbourhood offices and needs good all-rounders to staff them.
Estate managers are the lowest paid, and few have the technical knowledge needed to inspect repairs. Yet management has proposed to level salaries down towards their grade rather than raise them to that of more skilled staff.
Housing officers will have extra duties because the council can no longer afford separate posts to concentrate on homeless cases.
Estate manager Ganes Dunlop said housing officers in her district have been fighting low pay since the last reorganisation. 'It's a slap in the face. We will not accept this offer and will take industrial action if we have to,' she said.
She said that staff could also boycott the two-year training programme which, as it is based on shadowing and employees teaching each other their skills, relies on their co-operation.
A similar levelling is being negotiated in the libraries service, where staff from the two districts are also paid at different levels. A drop in grade could mean a £4,000 cut in salary for some librarians and difficulties in recruiting skilled staff to the area.