Local Government Poseurs want to stand you down –

“Let me at ‘em”

Yesterday, amongst three videoconferences with the other parties to the State Award trying to resolve the 2020 Award, we wrote to the Minister for Local Government and the Office of Local Government.

In the Award negotiations there had been a general discussion about what appeared to be a lack of action by Government to respond to the COVID-19 crisis in local government (something more positive than the more bloodthirsty general managers who keep shaking their fists at LGNSW demanding the right to stand staff down) so it seemed a good idea to write to people critical to the financial survival of local government.

It seemed obvious, although it hadn’t been explicitly said by the Prime Minister on Monday afternoon announcing the “JobKeeper” $130 billion package, that local government would struggle to get any of the wage subsidies being funded. We knew that the State Government looked like keeping all of their staff on normal pay, even if they had nothing to do, or twenty days special leave if they needed to mind their kids, as part of a process of riding the crisis out. But local government looked like it had fallen between the cracks.

Amongst other things we said:

Something needs to be done and it needs to be done by you two. Why can’t you do things like this:

  • whatever is required to make available councils’ financial reserves/”unrestricted assets”,
  • provide grants to continue employment to encourage councils to initiate “shovel-ready projects” and provide meaningful work to employees across the state as well as making improvements to local communities and community facilities,
  • commit to allowing councils funding continuing work and services to the community with the guarantee that these monies can be recouped with rate levels beyond the pegging limits,
  • pursue the Federal Government to extend JobKeeper to local government - which, as businesses, can satisfy the requirements,
  • do whatever is required to encourage councils to retain their staff levels and services to the community with the authority that only the Minister for Local Government can provide, and
  • find ways to ensure that local government employees can be guaranteed the protections of special leave where a workplace is closed “to be paid as normal and are (sic) placed on paid special leave”.

But while we were busy making suggestions aimed at keeping everyone employed and doing all those good things that councils do, the infamous Local Government Professionals (sic – AKA Local Government Poseurs) were off on a different tack. The Poseurs’ President Stewart Todd, almost at exactly the same moment that we had emailed our letter to the Minister and OLG had emailed out a “PRESIDENT UPDATE” (sic) to his “Fellow General Mangers”(sic) advising that he had flagged their intention to have LGNSW apply to the Industrial Relations Commission to include stand down provisions in the Award and make a variety of other changes making it easier to change people’s hours, reduce their hours or force them onto leave”.

Not quite the same approach that we and the other unions are looking for. LGP had an online meeting of GM’s which apparently had some “generally agreed” positions. And while they mention stimulus packages and other options for local government, it’s the reality that the only immediate idea they have is to stand down staff and reduce their hours of work, that reveals LGP at its most depressing.

You can read what should have been described as a “President’s Update” (and we’re always happy to give Stewart advice on his grammatical and spelling skills) but it’s the final paragraph that is so appallingly hypocritical:

This is not a time for local government stakeholders to be obstinate in their thinking and position - all involved will need to make sacrifices - we are all in this together.

Are we? The sacrifices needed to be made won’t see the GM’s stood down, only those well below them out there being seen in the community providing services.

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