Council Meeting – Bernard Smith. Picture: Shane Zahner
Council Meeting – Bernard Smith. Picture: Shane Zahner

Gympie Council denies refusing pandemic leave to staff

GYMPIE Regional Council CEO Bernard Smith has denied Services Union claims that the council “has “chosen not to adopt” measures like paid pandemic leave for staff during the coronavirus crisis.

A union statement issued this week said it had written “to all Queensland local authorities requesting twenty days’ paid pandemic leave” for staff during the crisis, and that the Gympie council had “chosen not to adopt” such measures.

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Mr Smith said that claim was inaccurate and outlined what would happen if staff were to be affected by the pandemic.

“COVID-19 is changing the workspace daily. Should Council need to shut down or reduce services and cannot find meaningful work for staff, Council will enact the Special Leave provision under our Certified Agreement 2018,” Mr Smith said.

CEO Bernard Smith. Photo: Greg Miller / Gympie Times
CEO Bernard Smith. Photo: Greg Miller / Gympie Times

“Should Council come to this point, we will not necessarily cap this at 20 days; it will depend on the circumstances we face at that particular time.

“Council is taking direction and advice at both state and federal level. Staff can take paid leave, which may include personal leave, annual leave or long service leave at the preference of the employee and the way in which it is paid (full or half pay).

“We are looking at each request individually to ensure a good outcome for staff members, the organisation and the ratepayer. We also have staff working remotely from home.”

Mr Smith said “further staff” were working from home this week, and any staff member requesting leave would be “supported”, with further work from home or leave options also on offer if any staff member was required to self-isolate.

Bob Leitch, Bernard Smith and Mayor Mick Curran meet under social distancing measures.
Bob Leitch, Bernard Smith and Mayor Mick Curran meet under social distancing measures.

“Council has also had discussions with other councils across Queensland, with some councils offering COVID-19 leave; however this is often taken from sick leave or annual leave balances. Gympie Regional Council does not wish to do this,” he said.

“Gympie Regional Council is very supportive of staff and have a Certified Agreement that sets out fundamental working conditions. We are fortunate to have a clause within this Agreement that allows for unforeseen circumstances.

“Other councils are not so lucky, so we can appreciate the Service Union’s blanket approach with their request.”