The risk of strike action at Dutch mail company TNT NV grew on Monday after members of its two largest unions rejected proposals that included a pay cut of up to 3.5 percent to prevent massive job cuts.

A TNT spokesman said the company was determined to bring its average labour costs of 23 euros an hour closer to its competitors' 8 euros an hour, adding its aim was to reach a deal with the unions in the coming weeks.

We are disappointed and surprised. We have focused our efforts to maintain work above income, but the unions have voted to keep income above work, the spokesman said.

The AbvaKabo FNV union said 64 percent of its members voted against the proposal from Europe's second-largest mail and delivery company.

The CNV Publieke Zaak union said most members wanted to keep their current income and were willing to take the risk of losing their job. Some 23,000 staff work at TNT's mail unit.

Plans by the country's largest postal firm to cut up to 11,000 jobs have strained relations with unions since they were announced more than two years ago.

Strike action or the threat of it has been a common feature of the industry in Europe in recent months; British peer Royal Mail was hit last month by strikes against its plans for cost cuts and modernisation.

Larger rival Deutsche Post averted the threat of strikes during the all-important Christmas season by reaching a wage deal with its unions that involved an increase in outsourcing in exchange for a 3 percent pay rise.

TNT said earlier this month that if workers accepted a 3.5 percent cut in net income, the company only needed to lay off 1,000 workers until 2012.

(Reporting by Harro ten Wolde and Greg Roumeliotis; Editing by Dan Lalor/Will Waterman)