Ingham Daily Press

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Strike action threatened by council staff over pay dispute

Workers met today to discuss a potential strike over a pay dispute with Hinchinbrook Shire Council

COUNCIL workers are threatening to strike tomorrow over an on-going pay dispute about wages.

The Services Union says that staff have not received a salary increase since 2019 and attempts to renegotiate have been unsuccessful.

A pay rise of 1.5% per year with no back pay has been offered by Hinchinbrook Shire Council, but that has been flatly rejected.

When the union suggested a 30-minute strike to take place tomorrow, it says council responded by ‘locking out’ all its members for the day, meaning they would not work or be paid on 29 April.

Secretary of the Services Union Neil Henderson said: ‘This council has bats in its belfry. A full day lockout is not a reasonable response to council employees who have not had a pay increase since July 2019.


‘In the time since then, our members have been bending over backwards to continue
to deliver frontline services to their local community, but they have been expected
to do their work as well as filling in these servicing gaps caused by a number of
redundancies.


‘On top of all this, some members have been knocked back accessing their leave
entitlements which just shows a total lack of respect for the workforce and a lack of
forward planning on staffing numbers.


‘Employees have also had to dispute attempts by the council management to pressure
them to sign amended contracts of employment without any consultation. It’s been
the wild west in Hinchinbrook.’


Council staff met at lunch today to discuss their strike action and the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement, which is the name of their pay agreement.


Mr Henderson added: ‘The offer on the table of 1.5 per cent each year with no back pay is just not good
enough, particularly for a council which pays at the lower end of the market.


‘This Council needs to start properly valuing its staff.


‘It’s time for this council to stop being so batty and pay its workforce a decent pay
rise.

‘That money will flow straight into the local community and businesses and give
everyone an economic jab in the arm.’

Mayor of Hinchinbrook Ramon Jayo has responded, saying that the salary demands are ‘beyond the capacity of the current economic climate’.

He said: ‘Council is in the process of negotiating its next Enterprise Bargaining Agreements.  These will be the first post Covid agreements negotiated by council.

‘In principle agreement has been reached with all unions with the exception of the Services Union.

‘Council thanks these unions for their time during the negotiation process and we are pleased that the Enterprise Agreement ballot process will start next week.

‘One union has requested salary increases that are beyond the capacity of council in the current economic climate. 

‘Council is being asked to provide salary increases more than double the current CPI [consumer price index] rate.’

He added that any strike action would result in ‘considerable disruption to customer service’.

The Mayor said: ‘The Services Union has written to council advising they wish to strike for 30 minutes out of every hour for two days.

‘Such action, if it was to proceed, will cause considerable disruption to customer service, however, we will ensure that the services of council will continue during this period.

‘The Services Union has been urged to return to the negotiating table and reach a realistic and reasonable outcome with council.’

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