Council workers who downed tools over safety concerns involving the use of potentially carcinogenic glyphosate weedkiller have welcomed a commitment by Blacktown City Council to launch a five-month trial of organic alternatives.
More than 500 workers at Blacktown City Council stopped work yesterday and again this morning in response to management’s refusal to examine alternatives to the controversial weedkiller following a series of international legal cases that have linked its use to cancer.
In an urgent hearing of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission this morning, council representatives agreed to implement a trial of safer alternatives, with the review process overseen by a committee that includes worker representatives.
The move makes Blacktown the fifth large council to phase out glyphosate sprays, following decisions by Fairfield, Randwick, Georges River, and Wollongong councils to last month trial safer alternatives.
United Services Union general secretary Graeme Kelly OAM said today’s outcome was likely to lead to similar reviews among other councils.
“Our members are very happy that their concerns have finally been addressed and that Blacktown Council will carry out a proper review of safer alternatives to this potentially cancer-causing product,” Mr Kelly said.
“Weed spraying is a common task for outdoor council staff, so it is understandable that workers have been deeply concerned by international legal cases which found a strong link between the use of glyphosate products and developing cancer.
“It is unfortunate that some members of the public have been inconvenienced by this dispute, but they need to understand that workers only took the decision to stop work only after council management refused to carry out a review of safer weedkillers.
“We expect today’s decision will spark similar reviews at many other councils, but what is really needed is leadership from the NSW Government to assist the local government sector to phase out this potentially dangerous product and find safe, effective alternatives.
“Keeping parks and public spaces looking their best is important, but that should never come at the expense of the long-term health and welfare of workers or community members.”

Further information: Tim Vollmer 0404 273 313