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Divisions deep, says union

Friday, 27th June, 2014

United Services Union organiser Paul Wesley at City Council headquarters yesterday. United Services Union organiser Paul Wesley at City Council headquarters yesterday.

By Erica Visser

Striking Council workers will meet this morning to decide their next move.

Around 150 employees have been on strike since Wednesday night when they voted to go out in protest against Council’s restructure. 

A meeting held yesterday morning was attended by 146 union members and all but four voted to continue the strike.

They will again meet with the United Services Union (USU) at 10am today to decide whether to continue action.

USU organiser Paul Wesley said that members wanted a commitment from Council’s General Manager, Therese Manns, that their award conditions would be honoured in the restructure.

“We believe the general manager is playing a waiting game, like the old western standoff of who’s going to blink first,” Mr Wesley said.

“In the long run they just want the proper commitments; that if people’s jobs are being made redundant they will be paid their entitlements irrespective of whether other lower-paid positions are offered.”

But Ms Manns said she did not think that workers had a valid reason to go on strike.

“It was certainly threatened. I didn’t think it would come to this and I don’t actually see a reason for it,” she told reporters yesterday.

“I don’t know how productive it will be.”

USU Southern Industrial Officer Greg Golledge will meet with Ms Manns on Tuesday to discuss an alternative restructure proposal from the union.

Mr Golledge last night said that employees had “had enough” of the GM and “most” Labor councillors.

He said that two Labor councillors were “defensive and unsympathetic” when he met with them regarding the alternative plan last week.

“They were simply wed to the General Manager’s plan; a plan not yet fully settled but containing forced transfers to lower paid positions.

“Reportedly, if you don’t apply for an advertised position you’re not acting in good faith and you’ll be terminated, where there is no redundancy pay if you refuse to take a lower-paid position and no new position descriptions as of yet.”

Mr Golledge said workers had been forced to strike due to Ms Manns’ “failure to communicate and ongoing reluctance to consider any option other than the one created in secret.

“I’m not sure where Ms Manns gets the idea the union knew about the restructure for six months.”

But Ms Manns said that there had been ample discussions with staff during the consultation period, which ended yesterday.

“We’ve had over 60 consultations with individuals and groups of staff. We’ve got a lot of feedback from staff and it’s valuable feedback,” she said.

“It will all be taken on board.”

Mr Golledge said that the actions of staff had shown otherwise.

“As it stands, you have USU members at Broken Hill on an indefinite stoppage, not because they want to lose money, not because they want to disadvantage the community but simply because they feel compelled to stand up for what they believe is right and fair and not to stand idly by while their workmates are singled out for unfair treatment,” he said.

“People with nothing to gain are supporting people who have everything to lose. It’s the way it should be, the union way.”

Meanwhile, Ms Manns said she had looked at the USU’s plan and “had some concerns.”

She said that the union’s three-page document claimed that no jobs would be lost but did not take into account the delivery of services.

“I do have some concerns but that will be discussed with the USU when they meet with me next week.”

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