Shadow Minister for Local Government Greg Warren has condemned a decision by the City of Sydney Council to cease paying hundreds of casual and part-time staff amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

The council – the most affluent in the state – recently announced it would spend $72.5 million on a relief package in response to the virus.

However, Mr Warren said the livelihoods of the dedicated employees should not be sacrificed in order to fund the package.

Mr Warren joined Councillor Linda Scott’s call for the council to immediately reverse its decision to stop paying hundreds of casual and part-time workers from April 26.

“This is decision that makes no sense. Surely the richest council in NSW should be doing everything in its power to keep people in work and provide leadership for the other 127 councils across the state”, Mr Warren said.

“Ninety council workers who have dedicated themselves to their workplace – in some cases for many, many years – will be left high and dry by this decision.”

“This decision will not only impact those workers but also their families.”

“What is the point of City of Sydney Council spending $72.5 million on a rescue package if they are going to engage in mass sackings at the same time?”

NSW Labor recently announced a package that would ensure the jobs of all employees in the local government sector were guaranteed during the crisis.

The package called on the Berejiklian Government to introduce a local government survival package that should include:

  • Protections for local government workers who are unable to work remotely or cannot be in their workplace due to the COVID crisis. These include the same pay and protections provided to State “crown” employees – such as stand down provisions on pay and special leave conditions if sick or caring for others.
  • No termination of employment or reductions in take-home pay of any local government employees during this crisis period, including casual employees.
  • Establishing a dedicated Keep Councils Working and Services Fund for NSW Local Government. This hardship fund would allow local councils – both those that are drought and bushfire-affected and smaller councils which have a reduced rate base and virtually no reserves – to retain workers and continue to provide essential services.
  • Creating a Local Government Infrastructure Fund to stimulate local jobs and undertake community-based shovel ready projects. Economists agree this is the best way to stimulate local economies.
  • Seeking a clear ruling from the Federal Government on whether a greatly reduced local government rate base is equivalent to a significant drop in business trade – allowing all employees, including casuals and those stood down to receive the Job Keeper $1500 per fortnight payment.
  • Providing a guarantee that local government general managers cannot use the current COVID crisis to reduce wages and conditions – in the face of reports that some councils have already started laying off casual workers in their leisure centres, pools and libraries.
  • Financial support and assistance to the council-run child care centres – which were overlooked in the Federal Government’s April 2 child care announcement.