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Not over yet

Monday, 30th June, 2014

By Erica Visser

Disaffected workers will meet again tomorrow as their dispute with City Council over the workforce restructure enters another week.

The matter is also going back before the NSW Industrial Relations Commission (IRC), which will tomorrow hear more union concerns about the council’s much-criticised consultation process.

The United Services Union (USU) will also be seeking “better interpretation” of a clause within the award that could allow Council to plead financial hardship to avoid paying out redundancies.

USU industrial officer Greg Golledge said on Friday that workers had agreed to go back to work after general manager Therese Manns gave “some verbal agreement” that she would not use the clause in the restructure.

Around 150 staff voted to return to work at 11am on Friday, after they staged a strike from midnight Wednesday.

“The thing that contributed to employees going back to work was the fact that Therese Manns gave some guarantee that she would not approach the financial hardship clause,” Mr Golledge said.

“That was the major contributing factor.”

Mr Golledge said that he was grateful that this verbal commitment had come out of the strike.

“I think striking is the absolute last card in the pack. We’ve at least got somewhere,” he said.

“We’re one step ahead of where we were certainly earlier this morning.”

Mr Golledge said employees’ decision to return to work was also a “show of good faith” towards residents.

“In terms of the motion (to return to work), it was put forward by the members, not to satisfy the general manager or the councillors, but as a show of good faith to the people of Broken Hill,” he said.

“The members have resolved to have a further meeting on Tuesday to review what has happened at the USU meeting with Ms Manns to discuss outstanding matters; certainly the union’s alternate restructure proposal is one of those.”

The union will meet with Ms Manns tomorrow before a 5pm meeting with staff.

Ms Manns said on Friday that she was relieved the strike had ended.

“I’d just like to say I’m really happy the staff have returned to work,” Ms Manns said.

“We’d also just like to thank the community. We understand that this has been a period of interruption.”

State MP John Williams has weighed into the dispute, saying Council’s proposed 18.5 job losses was undesirable, but realistic.

“Somewhere along the line you’d have to think no one wants to see any job losses in Broken Hill but unfortunately there needs to be decisions made by Council going forward,” Mr Williams said.

“It is (the employees’) democratic right to take industrial action, it’s always available as a means of putting forward their point.”

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