Standing together at Kingborough Council

 

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Employees at Kingborough Council have overwhelmingly voted NO on the enterprise agreement offered to them by management. With 80% of Council’s workforce actually casting a vote it was one of the highest participation rates we have seen in an EBA ballot for some time at Kingborough Council and the no vote was successful with 123 votes against (a massive 81% of the vote) and only 29 votes in favour.

ASU Organisers, Aaron De La Torre and Karen Tantari have been negotiating with Kingborough Council management for a new enterprise agreement to cover the vast majority of Council’s workforce for about 6 months now but negotiations have been drawn out and difficult with management not willing to move from their initial, fixed positions on a number of key claims from both union members and the employee bargaining representatives. Discussions about what was required to avoid the resounding no vote prior to the vote didn’t help either.  We’re pleased that employees have shown management that they mean business.

The reasons for the huge no vote at Kingborough are now well known and require simple fixes.  Employees want management to move from the current wage offer of 2.5% or $28 per week, whichever is the greater, to an offer of 3% or CPI, whichever is the greater. They want a disputes clause which allows them to seek independent arbitration for any work related dispute rather than having the original decision-makers reviewing their own decisions. They want Higher Duties to apply in office based roles after one day acting at a higher classification, rather than seemingly agreeing to this and then to changing the wording in the agreement to be “more than one day”. And finally, they want the right for their office-based colleagues to request to work a nine day fortnight roster pattern.

Management continue to argue that they have an operating deficit and that they can’t afford to pay higher wages or to improve conditions for their employees but the change to the wages claim would only cost an additional $50,000 to $60,000 per year on their own figures. In addition to this these employees are already some of the lowest paid in the state as evidenced by the Tasmanian Audit Office’s report into Local Government and TasWater from December 2016 which shows that Kingborough Council already has the lowest average employee costs per full time equivalent (FTE) employee of any Tasmanian urban council and is, in fact, just the fourth lowest in the state with only the small rural councils of Central Highlands, King Island and Glamorgan Spring Bay Councils paying less in employee costs per FTE than Kingborough.

Kingborough’s Mayor, Steve Wass, was on ABC Radio the morning before the ballot directly contradicting the management team’s arguments for not providing a pay rise stating that Council are in fact not in deficit. They simply have a deficit on paper due to the write-down of their assets which was not budgeted for correctly over previous years but they were actually trading with an operating surplus of over $1 million a year with the expectation that this will continue for the life of the long term financial plan.

ASU members have stood together, side by side with their colleagues, and sent a clear message to Council management that they will not be divided, they will not accept an agreement which doesn’t contain modest improvements to their terms and conditions of employment and they will vote no again should it come to that again.

 


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