1500 jobs will go in local councils: Hallam
QUEENSLAND'S peak local government body has warned of 1500 job losses across regional council - particularly in smaller towns - because of changes to industrial awards by the State Government.
The Local Government Association of Queensland said the Palaszczuk Government's determination to "reverse sensible and fair industrial award modernisation in local government" would lead to more job losses, including on the Sunshine Coast.
Local Government Association of Queensland chief executive Greg Hallam told ABC Sunshine Coast radio on Thursday that already 4000 jobs had been cut in councils.
He said the impact on smaller towns of job losses had been devastating.
A road gang of 12 being cut in a town of 1000 people could affect 40 or 50 people directly, he said.
He said the IR changes could make it more difficult for councils to manage their workforces and would entrench the inherent unfairness of having council employees doing the same or similar work getting different pay and conditions.
Mr Hallam said councils had already suffered massive cuts in funding from the federal and state governments.
He said those cuts were leading to rate and fee increases, which were in turn leading to ratepayer revolts, including at the last election.
Mr Hallam warned the debt facing local governments was now running into billions of dollars in Queensland.
He said while in the past councils had received state funding for major infrastructure projects, such as water and sewage treatment, now they were getting nothing.
That meant in some cases huge increases in charges on ratepayers.
Hallam blasts Katter MPs for supporting legislation
In a statement last week, he said: 'I am particularly disappointed that the passage of this legislation relied on the support of the Katter's Australian Party MPs who did a deal with Labor and the unions, apparently in exchange for mandated ethanol in fuel."
'I cannot see how the KAP's efforts would benefit anyone in the Mount Isa electorate.'
Rob Katter responds
Mr Katter said he voted for the Industrial Relations (Restoring Fairness) Bill for the workers, not because of any deal with Labor.
"My concern is that Council workers haven't been given the full story," he said.
Responding to the Local Government Association Queensland's Greg Hallam's comments, Mr Katter said the LGAQ mounted a very spirited campaign against this bill, to the extent of sending out information to all mayors in Queensland giving out his mobile number and the Member for Dalrymple, Shane Knuth's mobile phone number.
"I received a number of calls from mayors all over Queensland, and quite frankly, some of the information they gave me was misguided and completely wrong and it concerns me that council workers have been guided by this misinformation.
"Another issue was job losses. I was told that the IR changes would cause job losses, which of course concerned me. But this statement by the LGAQ is such an exaggeration that there have been very few council CEOs willing to publicly support it.
"The changes under the IR Bill will ensure bargaining can take place in a way I believe is fair to both sides of the agreement. Council workers and all State employees should be assured that this bill is in their best interests.
"The bill seeks to achieve fairness by removing the restrictions placed on negotiations in relation to certain protections, which is especially relevant to my electorate - and a vital cornerstone of those protections is consultation.
"This is in direct opposition to the previous Government's legislation which made it illegal to negotiate aspects of job security, took away any obligation from the employer to consult the workforce on major change until after a decision had been made, and stripped away redundancy entitlements," Mr Katter said.
The Newman Government had placed a cap of 16 weeks on redundancies and had taken away the extra week's leave given to council workers in rural and regional shires.
"So if someone had been working for the company or council for 30 years, instead of the 52 weeks redundancy they'd been entitled to, they would only get 16 weeks' pay under Newman's legislation.
"Some mayors and Council CEOs said the job losses would result from these changes to the IR Legislation and the potential effect on Industry Awards, and that they would have to pay workers less or have less output on wages so that they could save money to keep employing more people.
"However, in the same conversation, they were saying that they have to pay them above the award rates to get them out to rural and remote shires in the first place.
"I do not see what the problem is. If you are paying them above the Award rate, then how are you going to lose money if Enterprise Bargaining Agreements (EBAs) subject to the previous Government's short-lived restrictions are not allowed to go through?
"Once the Award is settled, there is nothing to stop any council paying above the Award rate. The Industry Award sets the minimum standard or safety net for employees.
"Some CEOs and mayors have said that the locality allowance is almost always needed in an award to get people to go out to remote areas. So I do not understand why such an allowance should be excluded, and I do not understand why Councils successfully sought to have it excluded during the previous Government's reign.
"Ultimately, the only gains for CEOs and Mayors under the previous legislation were around the ability to remove job protections and make it cheaper to make long term, resident staff redundant which makes it easier to introduce contractors and removes vital funds from the local economy," Mr Katter said.
He said he was willing to talk to any council staff who felt they would be worse off under the new legislation.
"My belief is, they have only heard one side of the story, and not the full story," he said.