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City Council-Union negotiations stall

3 September 2004

After 10 days of negotiations over 3 months, the City Council has adjourned negotiations with the Southern Local Government Officers Union, citing lack of progress.

The Council and the SLGOU, which represents about 55% of total Council staff, have been in negotiations over the Collective Agreement for Council Salaried Employees since June.

Four other unions, representing Council staff on five different collective employment agreements, have settled or are in the final stages of settling with Council.

City Council Chief Executive Lesley McTurk says the Council is unable to offer the SLGOU the across-the-board wage increase it seeks for salaried staff because it does not fix the unfair pay scale, which is out of line with the local government market nationally.

"This is causing difficulties for the Council in being able to ensure that current staff and new employees are offered fair and equitable salaries consistent with the local government market.

"Council staff are currently paid salary packages which exceed the national market by up to 10% at the lower grades and are below the market by up to 30% at the higher grades," Dr McTurk says.

These conditions result in the Council being unable to attract and retain staff with the experience, skills and qualifications to meet the business needs of the organisation.

The SLGOU claim for a 4.5% wage increase across the board for all their members would simply increase the current cost of Council services to ratepayers without achieving any long-term improvement in services and in the recruitment of skilled people or resolving the current inequities in the remuneration structure, Dr McTurk says.

Council had also sought union involvement to develop an employment agreement that helped it respond better to the needs of its customers. For example:

  • ensuring hours of work provisions reflect the Councils service to ratepayers seven days a week, instead of the current practice which limits most business operations to 37.5 hours Monday to Friday,
  • to introduce change management provisions that allow for external job applications rather than giving preference to internal candidates, this would ensure the Council acts in accordance with the Local Government Act and Equal Employment Opportunities legislation to appoint the best suited person to the job.
  • To introduce recruitment and selection practices which ensure that employees are appointed on the basis of merit and not according to the Council’s past practice of internal preference.

While the Council changes appear significant to the SLGOU, they are changes that would bring City Council employment conditions and practices into line with the rest of the Local Government and other labour markets nationally, Dr McTurk says.


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