As outlined by Judy Skatssoon in Government News, the new splinter award approved in NSW will provide council workers with a financial safety net during COVID-19.​

More than 100 NSW councils have signed up to a new workplace agreement that will see staff paid $858 a week for three months if they are stood down or redeployed during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Local Government (COVID-19) Splinter Award was approved the by the NSW Industrial Relations Commission on Tuesday.

LGNSW and the union representing council workers, the United Services Union, worked together to develop the optional award, which will apply for 12 months and sit alongside existing local government awards and enterprise agreements.

Under the award, councils will have to find suitable work for employees whose usual jobs have been disrupted and where this isn’t possible, they’ll pay affected workers a weekly job retention allowance of $858.20 for 13 weeks.

That can be boosted with accrued annual and long service leave to make up ordinary pay rates.

The award also entitles employees to up to four weeks of special leave at their normal pay rate for periods without work or if they have to self-isolate.

A safety net

The USU’s general secretary Graeme Kelly says the deal ensures a minimal financial safety net and will protect thousands of council workers.

“The Splinter Award delivers immediate assistance to our members, particularly those who work in services that have been shut or disrupted by COVID-19 such as libraries and aquatic centres,” he said.

Mr Kelly says the union is continuing to work with councils  and expects more to sign up.

LGNSW says the award sets a minimum standard only and councils are free to do more.

President Linda Scott says the new award, made necessary by local government employees being ruled out of the federal government’s JobKeeper program, puts the onus on councils to find suitable alternatives for affected staff.

“Councils are able to determine how work is best carried out according to people’s skills, availability and their locations, and based on an assessment of the work available, where, and for how long,” she said.

Cr Scott says the intent of the award is to retain as many people as possible for as long as possible as councils navigate the pandemic.

“Without this Award, councils would face an almost impossible task and thousands of council staff would face uncertainty in the weeks and months ahead,” she said.

Greens MP David Shoebridge said most councils have the capacity to retain their workforce through the pandemic and the splinter award should only be viewed a “basic minimum”.

“Local Councils should lead the way by giving a job guarantee for all their workforce with a plan to retain and redeploy all staff including casuals with pay at full rate,” he said.

Find out more about the award, including if your council is onboard, here.

By Judy Skatssoon
Government News

What members are saying about the Splinter Award

Gary Chorley from Tenterfield contacted Organiser Mark Hughes to pass on a huge vote of thanks from the members at Tenterfield Council for the work done by the USU in securing the Splinter award.

James Paynter also passed on his thanks. The members all agree the Splinter Award has given them a lot of certainty and security in a time of uncertainty.

Mandy Cronin Clarence Valley Council: Graeme, Just a short email to say well done. You are doing a great job in extremely hard times with the recent COVID-19 Pandemic. You and your team are continually delivering support for the members of the USU. Proud to be a USU member. Thanks again for your great efforts.

Some comments from Facebook:

Bill Green
Just brilliant, great staff and great leadership thank you all.

Fran Silk
Well done Tweed Shire Council

Ollie Weston
Looking out for us as always. Well done!

Ash Tracey
Well done USU. Thank you.

Denise Mercer
This is great news

Sean Ward
This gives me some peace of mind

Angus McFarland
Congratulations USU members!!

Angela Teresa Ngatoko
Nice Steve great good work, Ange

Belinda Caruana
Hopefully everyone who is not a member, now becomes one.

Andrew Bayes
Awesome stuff

Liz Thomas
Hopefully more councils will sign up