Upper Lachlan Shire Council has been accused of putting employees at risk of financial hardship and threatening the future viability of community services after refusing to sign up to an agreement that provides job security and income support during the COVID health crisis.

The United Services Union, which represents 30,000 local government workers across NSW, said Upper Lachlan Shire was one of only a small number of councils who had not signed up to a new workplace agreement that protects staff who are stood down or redeployed during the pandemic.

The Local Government (COVID 19) Splinter Award, negotiated between unions and Local Government NSW, allows staff from council-run services that are shut due to lockdowns — including pools, libraries and childcare — to be redeployed or paid $858 a week for up to three months.

USU General Secretary Graeme Kelly OAM said Upper Lachlan Shire’s decision not only threatened to cause financial hardship for workers, it denied the council access to NSW Government support payments and threatened the future viability of local community services.

“More than 100 councils across NSW have signed up to the Splinter Award, which is already providing invaluable support to thousands of workers impacted by the state-wide COVID lockdown,” Mr Kelly said.

“This agreement also allows councils to access the NSW Government’s COVID support package, which provides a $1,500 per fortnight Job Retention Allowance.

“The Splinter Award and government support package are designed to not only protect thousands of workers from financial hardship, but to ensure councils retain their skilled and experienced staff so that the delivery of essential community services can resume as soon as lockdowns are lifted.

“Upper Lachlan Shire isn’t just thumbing their nose at employees, they are actually robbing themselves of the opportunity to obtain government funding that covers the overwhelming majority of wages for staff who are stood down during the health crisis.

“Local workers are extremely concerned by their exclusion from the Splinter Award and support package, which not only threatens to cause them financial hardship, but risks the future viability of essential community services if staff are forced to look for other work.

“The USU is urging the management of Upper Lachlan Shire to review their decision, sign up to the Splinter Award, and gain access to the NSW Government support package.

“The current decision is not only threatening serious financial hardship for stood-down staff, it’s robbing council of financial support, which would deliver thousands of dollars of stimulus into the local economy.

“The community should be demanding that council treat local employees with the respect they deserve, while also gaining access to the government assistance package, to ensure ratepayers aren’t left paying the price if community services are lost due to the COVID crisis.”

Further information: Rudi Oppitz — 0409 662 460