Thirty thousand Queensland council workers will be free to negotiate new pay deals from next month, with the expected release of a new modern award.

The August 31 deadline for the release of the Qld Local Government Industry Award – which amalgamates 18 separate awards and affects 77 councils – was in doubt due to a last-minute challenge by the Local Government Association of Qld (LGAQ).

In a judicial review application to Qld Supreme Court Justice Peter Applegarth, the LGAQ argued Industrial Relations minister Grace Grace had breached ministerial powers by directing the Qld Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) to restore sick leave, overtime and locality allowances conditions removed by the previous Coalition Govt.

On August 19, 2016, Justice Applegarth found Grace acted within power and dismissed the LGAQ’s application.

In a statement to Workforce Daily, LGAQ chief executive officer Greg Hallam said the LGAQ accepted the court’s ruling, “as disappointing as it is”.

“We will consult with our members and determine our next course of action.”

Workforce understands a statement on whether that involves a further legal challenge is likely to be made next week.

Newman govt used award modernisation to strip ‘every condition worth having’: union

Services Union secretary Neil Henderson, meantime has welcomed the court order, claiming the former Newman govt had removed “every condition worth having” under the guise of modernising the award.

“It is hypocritical for the LGAQ to argue an abuse of process, when they stood by and allowed their workers to be robbed of the very same conditions now being restored,” Henderson said.

QIRC Deputy President Adrian Bloomfield is now finalising a draft exposure of the new modern award, which is expected to be released by the full bench on Wednesday (August 31). The local government modern award will have three streams covering salaried, operational and maintenance staff.

Henderson said the modernisation process had been a tortuous one for workers, with bargaining effectively frozen by the former Newman govt from October 2013 until a new modern award was finalised. He said the Services Union had continued to negotiate in good faith with a number of councils, with a number of unregistered enterprise agreements reached.

He said the process had been made particularly difficult by a Newman govt decree that the “maximum” redundancy payments to council workers be capped at the previous “minimum” rate of 16 weeks. He claimed some councils had held that over workers in an attempt to get them agree to the Newman govt’s reduced terms and conditions.

Subject to the new modern award being released, the first council due to negotiate a new agreement is expected to be Gold Coast City Council, Henderson said. Brisbane City Council is not covered by the award and has its own agreement.