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Employees come before Council finances: union

Wednesday, 14th May, 2014

By Andrew Robertson

The union representing the majority of City Council’s employees is not expecting “large scale” redundancies as part of a restructure process now underway.

The United Services Union (USU) also said that it would be guided by its members - not Council’s poor financial position - when negotiations for a new council award begin later this year.

Changes to Council’s upper management structure have already been revealed and have been described by general manager Therese Manns as the first stage of a Council-wide restructure.

The measures are aimed at reversing the council’s continuing financial decline in the wake of falling income and rising costs which have resulted in successive budget deficits.

Council is forecasting a $6.9 million budget deficit for the 2014/15 financial year.

United Services Union (USU) industrial officer Greg Golledge said yesterday the restructure had already seen a number of administrative staff “moved around”.

While he expects more changes to come, the union official doubts there will be major jobs losses because of the costs involved and the impact on services.    

“I couldn’t see them doing large scale redundancies,” Mr Golledge said.

“They’ve got infrastructure to look after, they’ve got services to deliver.”  

But he said some employees may be offered lower-paid positions under the restructure, with many believing they had little choice but to accept.

Mr Golledge said he was pleased that any changes will likely be finalised by the time negotiations for a new consent award begin.

“It would be very difficult for the union to sit down for a restructure and award and work out both.”

As for the new award, he said the union would put the needs and wishes of its members ahead of any consideration of Council’s financial position.

Council will always say the cupboard’s bare, and maybe it’s a little more bare at the moment, said Mr Golledge, who has already held preliminary meetings with indoor and outdoor staff.

Under the current agreement, which expires in November, workers received a 9.75 per cent increase over three years.

Mr Golledge said that was in line with the State Award which covers the majority of council employees in NSW.

A new award is expected to be finalised by July and Mr Golledge said the result would be used as a guide for local negotiations.

“That will give us a view to what the population will accept.

“In good times the Broken Hill award tends to be a little higher. The last one was in line with the State Award.

“From the union’s perspective, our members are happy with the award they’ve got.”

Council has budgeted for annual increases of three per cent for staff wages under its “balanced scenario” delivery plan.

General manager Therese Manns said: “Award negotiations are in an early stage and it would be inappropriate to make further comment other than to say our financial situation and staff consultation is a priority during this negotiation period.

“In terms of the balanced scenario it is an assumption with Council acknowledging it is committed to looking at its own operations for efficiencies and savings.”

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