SEE YOU IN COURT: Australian Workers Union QLD acting secretary central division Tony Beers.
SEE YOU IN COURT: Australian Workers Union QLD acting secretary central division Tony Beers. Mike Richards GLA210417NRGP

Mayor offers olive branch in union dispute

NORTH Burnett's mayor has struck a conciliatory tone towards the union which is taking it to court over perceived job losses, saying the action is just "unions doing their jobs”.

The Australian Workers Union lodged a notice of an industrial dispute under s261 of the Industrial Relations Act 2016 with the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission on September 26, the day after releasing what Mayor Rachel Chambers described as a "bombastic” statement panning the council for what the union claimed was a plan to cut 13 full-time equivalent jobs.

The union lodged the action in response to the council's 'Workforce Sustainability Project', which aims to find $1.5 million of savings during this budgetary term in response to an unfavourable assessment by the Queensland Treasury Corporation because of its structural deficit.

This unfavourable assessment meant council has been denied State Government loans until it can show three years of "improvement” in its deficit, although Cr Chambers stressed that the council had received no guidance as to what criteria "improvement” would be judged by.

North Burnett Regional Council Mayor Rachel Chambers.
North Burnett Regional Council Mayor Rachel Chambers. Alex Treacy

A council spokesman previously told the Times that the union was spreading "misinformation”, wilfully twisting the council's words.

The spokesman said the union was told by council that $1.5 million equated to 13 FTE jobs, but stressed that they were not actually jobs on the chopping block.

However, he was unable to confirm there would be no job losses stemming from the review.

Cr Chambers repeated this version, telling the Times the 13 jobs claim was simply a way of "communicating” how much savings needed to be found under the review.

"Council's never going to go out and target 13 jobs, that was never our intention, I have great faith the unions understand that,” she said.

"It's not lost on us that we are also the second largest employer (in the North Burnett), and for every person that doesn't have a job, we may lose a family, that family may have kids in school and then we lose the kids in school, the school loses teachers.”

When explaining why the union felt the need to take such drastic action, Cr Chambers said that they "picked up some stuff in our enterprise bargaining agreement (they were) dissatisfied with”.

"With the unions, of course, in any kind of workplace review, (they) have to be consulted and included as well as staff.”

However, according to the union's September 25 statement announcing the court action, this consultation (or lack thereof) is where the issue lies.

"Consultation with the union is required as per the Certified Agreement. Given the council's repeated lack of consultation, it's left the union with no other choice but to take the matter to the QIRC,” AWU acting central district secretary Tony Beers said.

Cr Chambers, however, extended the olive branch, telling the Times she had "great faith” both the union and the council were working for their people.

"Unions have a different role, their job is to look after their members, I appreciate that,” she said.

"Council's job is to look after our 7000 ratepayers and also any community stakeholders and also our staff.

"We may come from it from different angles, but (we need to work) together and collaboratively.”