Back in April, Broken Hill City Council (BHCC) began wage negotiations with its 140-member unionised workforce, and offered a 2.7% rise, which falls well short of soaring inflation.
Broken Hill is unique in that it has its own award, separate to the state award.
Six months later, negotiations are at a standstill and if a solution cannot be found those 140 council workers – they cover waste management, parks and gardens, libraries, civic centre workers, and more, may look to take industrial action.
“We understand that Broken Hill has had some good conditions and pay over the years, but at the same time there is no way our members should be wearing a pay cut with the current rate of inflation,” Industrial Officer for the United Services Union, Stuart Geddies, told the Barrier Truth.
Inflation is currently running at between seven and 8% and still rising, despite the Reserve Bank putting the screws on via a very aggressive month-by-month interest rate rise which in turn is pushing mortgage payments skyward.
Mr Geddies said he was surprised discussions had gone on for so long. When negotiations began, they were amicable, he says, but negotiations “came to a standstill when it came to wages and pay increases”, he said.
“There have been a couple of smaller informal offers, but still no concrete agreement,” Mr Geddies told us. He then made the point that the Federal Industry Award had increased by 4.8%, so a pay rise of just 2.7% was, “completely unacceptable”.
The matter is heading for conciliation at the NSW Industrial Relations Commission on October 7 and if matters aren’t resolved, more than 140 workers across council services could take industrial action. It is a decision that hasn’t been made yet but hasn’t been ruled out.
“Depending on what happens on October 7, we’ll meet with our members and go from there,” Mr Geddies said when we asked about the prospect of a breakdown in pay negotiations leading to industrial action.
Broken Hill Mayor, Tom Kennedy, dismissed any notion of industrial action out of hand when we asked him for comment.
“I don’t have any concern about industrial action in Broken Hill,” Mr Kennedy said.
He said he had no doubts that council workers would continue to “work with the Council and the community, regardless of what happens in the negotiating room”.
“Management, outdoor staff, and councillors are all working for the best for Broken Hill, and I have no doubt there will be an amicable outcome,” he said.