MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire CEO Carl Cowie has been accused of “unfair and underhanded” tactics by the union negotiating council staff pay and conditions amid fears some council services will be outsourced.
The Australian Services Union has revealed Mr Cowie is offering permanent council employees a one-off payment of $1000 each and casual staff $300 in a move the union describes as “a dirty trick from the CEO”.
The “incentive” payment to all staff would cost ratepayers about $1 million, according to the ASU.
In a flyer headed “Don’t let the CEO buy your vote – when the time comes, vote no”, ASU branch secretary Richard Duffy said the shire wants staff to effectively sign away redundancy rights if they refuse to be transferred to a new employer.
The union says staff sick leave will be slashed under the proposed new enterprise bargaining agreement.
ASU branch executive president Michelle Jackson said the “unfair changes to sick leave entitlements had upset the hardworking staff at the council”.
“Staff are outraged that sick leave that has been used to support staff – many of whom are also members of the community – through life-threatening illnesses such as cancer, is being slashed,” Ms Jackson stated.
The union representative said the shire is offering staff a 6.8 per cent pay rise over three years but is cutting sick leave and penalty rates in the proposed new agreement.
“The CEO is splashing around $1 million in sign-on bonuses to get the staff to vote yes to a substandard agreement.”
The union says casual staff, making up 27 per cent of the workforce, are not eligible for redundancies or sick leave.
“So casuals have nothing to lose by taking the $300 sign-on bonus” although “it is not their fault”, the union says.
The union says Mr Cowie told them late last year council is looking at outsourcing the running of Home and Community Care (HACC) services provided by the shire.
“Council are seeking to reduce employees’ current entitlement to take a redundancy rather than have their employment transferred to the new provider,” Ms Jackson said.
“It is also an attempt to cut their current conditions to make it more attractive for potential contractors and service providers to take the employees on.”
The possible outsourcing of HACC services comes after the shire put out an expression of interest last year for contractors to manage Sports and Leisure operations on behalf of council.
“No decision to contract out the running of facilities has been made yet,” Ms Jackson said.
“We believe this is because the current enterprise agreement doesn’t make the transfer of employees an attractive proposition for either council or the potential contractors and service providers.”
Mr Cowie would not comment when asked questions about the offer to pay staff a one-off “incentive” ahead of a vote to accept the enterprise bargaining agreement.
“It’s inappropriate for us to comment on enterprise bargaining agreements while negotiations are still taking place,” Mr Cowie said.
“We take these negotiations very seriously and will continue the dialogue with our employees directly.”
At January’s public council meeting he said negotiations were ongoing.
“We’ve done fairly extensive enterprise bargaining negotiations between ourselves as the shire employer and the unions that represent different groups of staff within the shire,” the CEO said.
“That is an important piece of work that the organisation does to try and, as best as possible, give a fair pay rise to the staff but also attempt to contain the costs of operations for the future.”
The existing agreement expired at the end of December. Council staff will vote on the new EBA at the end of February.
A majority is needed for staff to accept the new pay and condition terms. All employees, both permanent and casual, have equal voting rights.