COVID-19 update

LGNSW and the three unions, the USU, LGEA and depa, have published two Joint Statements as a guide to the industry - one on 17 March and a Revised version on 20 March.

We expect these Joint Statements will continue and so far we’ve seen councils that have responded quickly and decisively to the need to get those who can be working from home, working from home, as well as councils stumbling around and failing that challenge - Clarence Valley, for example, has done little more than warn their staff not to travel between the two Council offices, and to prevent people opening the windows to get in some fresh air. Always a laggard, Clarence needs to move much, much faster.

One of the USU’s big issues in the current award negotiations is the need to survey and establish levels of casualisation in the industry - especially the misuse of “casual” arrangements of people who really are doing systematic and regular hours and are more appropriately described as permanent part-time. The IRC in proceedings directed all councils to supply this information and one of the councils which has failed to comply with the direction is Sutherland. The sort of occasion when you regret that there are no penal provisions in the Industrial Relations Act.

And it eventuates that at Sutherland last week they planned to advise more than 300 employees they classified as “casuals” that there won’t be any more work offered. Obviously councils need to work out what to do about workplaces like swimming pools, gymnasiums and leisure centres when the Government has closed them down, but the heavy-handed approach taken by GM Manjeet Grewal entirely ignored that many of the 300 staff had been employed for five, ten and even twenty years and were not really casuals, but permanent part-time employees who would be entitled to redundancy payments.

And this is the same GM who thought it appropriate, on receiving a request from us through their HR people to focus their attention on having those who can work from home, working from home, thought it appropriate to approach our local delegate (who was unaware of our email) and walk him up the street and point out the queues outside Centrelink - something the GM asserted she was avoiding but then, only two days later was sprung sacking all her casuals! Lovely. A handful of degrees but none of them remotely involving caring or compassion.

We are interested to hear from members at other laggard councils so we can assist in getting people working from remote locations and away from cramped and higher risk offices. Let us know.

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