The United Services Union has been working tirelessly in seeking to negotiate an outcome to better protect the jobs of Local Government Workers during this ongoing Covid-19 Pandemic.
Initially the USU along with the other 2 Local Government Unions and the Employer’s Association LGNSW signed off on a recommended Joint Statement which while not binding on the Employers, did recommend that workers who needed to self-isolate be paid 2 weeks special leave.
As this situation has continued to develop and the Government has placed increased restrictions on everyone with some limited exceptions, it has become increasingly apparent that many workplaces outside of Local Government have had to shut down altogether or to severely cut back.
This has led to many hundreds of thousands and possibly maybe in excess of a million workers being stood down, terminated or forced to take any accrued leave they may have had.
The Federal Government’s worker stimulus package of $1500.00 per fortnight which is predicted to come into effect in May to assist employers in retaining their workers unfortunately at this time does not apply to Local Government Employers or Employees.
Make no mistake the USU as well as other key industry stakeholders, including LGNSW, State Politicians and Federal Labor Politicians are lobbying heavily in an effort to extend the stimulus package to Councils.
While we participate in high level lobbying we cannot rely on that alone and as a result after recently being contacted by the Tweed Council General Manager Mr Troy Green with his idea to create a new longer term Industry Joint Statement which would provide more certainty and better protections for NSW Council Employees, the USU has worked tirelessly in seeking to negotiate an industry solution, which if agreed would be a legal binding industrial instrument for those Employers (Councils) who sign up.
We explored the options of MOU’s “Memorandum of Understandings” and EA’s Enterprise Agreements among others, but have decided that a 12 Month Local Government Industry Splinter Award which would run currently alongside the 2017 Industry Award, as well as the expected 2020 Industry Award set to commence on July 1st this year and any local Enterprise Agreements is the best and most legally binding solution.
Yesterday on April 7th we completed negotiations for a 12 Month Local Government Splinter Award to cover staff whose jobs are affected in any way as a result of the Covid-19 Pandemic.
This Draft requires final endorsement by the Industry Unions and LGNSW, at which time it will be made available for NSW Councils to consider and to sign up to where it will then proceed to the NSW Industrial Commission for ratification.
Our information at this time leads us to believe that initially at least half of the NSW Councils will sign up as soon as it is released.
They will be listed in Schedule A as an attachment to this Award.
We have made provisions for Councils who do not sign up immediately to also sign up, where the IRC will be notified and their Council will be added onto Schedule A to be covered by the Award also.
We will be drafting a comprehensive summary of the Splinter Award once it is finalised and will be placing this on our website with a copy of the Splinter Award.
We will mailchimp our members of whom we have their e mail addresses or mobile phone numbers to notify them that their Council is covered by this Splinter Award and from the date it applies. Councils also will have a responsibility to notify their staff and to provide information regarding this if and when they sign up to the Award. We will also follow up with mail outs.
In a very brief summary of the intent of the Splinter Covid 19 Local Government Award we can state that where a Council signs on to the Splinter Award, only employees of that Council whose employment is affected by the Covid 19 situation will be impacted by the Award as unless your job is affected you won’t need to rely on the protections in the Award.
For the many fortunate employees whose jobs are unaffected, they will continue under their normal Award and or Enterprise Agreement conditions.
For those who are affected, this Splinter Award places an obligation on the Employer to, wherever possible, make arrangements to provide ongoing employment opportunities for affected employees.
This may not be in the same location, it could be at home or elsewhere, it could be totally different duties and during different hours and or work days.
Employees will need to be reasonably flexible and cooperative during this time until restrictions are eased or lifted altogether until things return to normality.
This will result in as many Permanent and Permanent Part Time Local Government workers remaining in paid employment for as long as possible and hopefully long enough to avoid being stood down without pay or having their employment terminated or being made redundant.
Eventually this crisis will end and Local Government workers will be required to get regular services back on track and to deal with the resulting backlog of work that will have built up.
Employees need to be aware that where a reasonable request is made by the Employer in seeking to continue to provide employment opportunities, during this crisis for those in affected positions and it is refused by the Employee without good reason, it may result in that person having to take their accrued leave or face having to take leave without pay.
This Award will provide for 4 weeks of paid Special Leave for workers who have no available work.
At the end of the 4 weeks paid Special Leave or when the 4 weeks paid Special Leave has been used the employee would receive instead a payment of $858.20 per week to cover them while they have no work to perform at Council.
This would continue for up to 3 months in total, however whilst receiving this payment employees can access their accrued leave entitlements such as Annual Leave and Long Service Leave to top up the payment to their normal pay or an amount that they request.
This will extend the employee’s accrued paid leave period which hopefully will get them through this crisis period to when things can return to normality.
Should a Government Stimulus package be made available for supporting jobs in Councils we have included a Leave Reserved Clause in the Splinter Award where we can seek to negotiate if possible a better deal.
Please be assured that this Splinter Award provides for far more certainty to both Employers and Employees and will greatly assist in keeping people in paid employment longer than if we did nothing.
The detailed Summary will be released with the Splinter Award once it is ratified to answer any questions that you may have.