Shire staff rally over layoffs

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New CEO Carl CowieHUNDREDS of Mornington Peninsula Shire staff attended three union meetings last week to hear about their rights as the battle between the shire and two unions over layoffs continued.

Australian Services Union officials held meetings at the shire’s three offices at Rosebud, Mornington and Hastings.

Meetings were also held between shire CEO Carl Cowie and some of the 12 workers who were told on 13 March they would be laid off. Staff members were accompanied by union officials.

Five others have been laid off for a total of 17.

On 18 March the Fair Work Commission told the shire to negotiate with terminated employees and not layoff any more people.

It also ordered the shire to prepare a document showing how it would proceed during a restructure following Mr Cowie’s three-month review of shire operations.

ASU official Michelle Jackson said there was double the usual number of people at each of the three meetings.

“I’ve been running meetings for shire staff for more than a decade and the turnouts were big, even larger than when we discuss wage rises,” she said.

Ms Thomas said “no conclusions were reached and discussions are ongoing”.

She said the restructuring protocol document had to be provided by the shire by Wednesday this week.

“It appears that Mr Cowie wants to contract out jobs,” she said.

ASU is representing three laid off members of staff during negotiations with the shire.

“They are high performing senior people and being laid off is no reflection on their competence.”

Ms Thomas said some of the people laid off on Friday 13 March had left the shire but others were staying to fight.

The Australian Services Union and Professionals Australia (APESMA) went to the commission to force the shire to comply with its enterprise agreement after it was revealed the shire was not offering redundancies to some staff.

The ASU accused the shire of “blatant disregard of the EBA [enterprise bargaining agreement]”.

Ms Thomas said if the matter could not be resolved, the union would take the shire back to the Fair Work Commission or to the Federal Court.

The shire has refused to answer questions from The News.

Mr Cowie stated in an email to staff that “the reason for change is simple. The shire has to put as much of its resources as possible into servicing the needs of the community, in the main, the ratepayers of the shire. The departure of certain staff is a reflection of rightsizing, not a reflection of competence”.

* Shire communications manager Todd Trimble says no staff who had been laid off were escorted from council offices by security guards, as reported in The News last week. Mr Trimble did not challenge the report that some staff were given less than 30 minutes to pack up and leave.

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