Shire staff reject CEO’s work offer

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STAFF at Mornington Peninsula Shire will stay on their existing enterprise agreement after knocking back an agreement put forward by CEO Carl Cowie.

The 803 eligible members of general staff voted 330-227 against the shire’s offer when the ballot closed, 5pm, Tuesday 4 April; 256 aged and disability services staff voted 124-62 against; 163 sport and leisure staff voted 45-22 against, while the shire’s 42 nurses voted 20-6 in favour.

Many staff in the four departments abstained from voting.

Mr Cowie said in a statement to staff: “The nurses’ agreement has been supported by staff and will proceed to ratification with the Fair Work Commission.

“The general staff, aged and disability services and sport and leisure agreements were not supported. In this case the previous enterprise agreement remains in place until the negotiations result in a successful ballot.”

ASU branch executive president Michelle Jackson said results of the ballots were “fantastic”.

“We argued for a No vote and they were all voted down,” she said, adding that the union acts for general staff, aged and disability services and sport and leisure, but does not represent the nurses.

“I have contacted the CEO Carl Cowie to see when he is available to sit down and talk with us.

“I want to make sure he is aware of the main issue: the removal of sick leave provisions – that’s the main sticking point.”

Ms Jackson said in February that “unfair changes to sick leave entitlements had upset the hardworking staff at the council”. (“Unfair, underhanded offer” The News, 13/2/2017.)

“Staff are outraged that sick leave that has been used to support staff – many of whom are also members of the community – through life-threatening illnesses such as cancer, is being slashed,” Ms Jackson said in a statement.

The union representative said the shire had been offering staff a 6.8 per cent pay rise over three years but was cutting sick leave and penalty rates in the now voted-down agreement.

“The CEO is splashing around $1 million in sign-on bonuses to get the staff to vote yes to a substandard agreement,” she said.

Last week, Ms Jackson said another sticking point had been the shire’s insistence that it have the right to force staff to take annual leave when shutting down a facility, say for renovations.

“The staff have shown they want greater protection, in the light of the CEO saying he wants to contract out sport and leisure and aged and disability services,” she said.

Ms Jackson said staff had “reacted very strongly against” a one-off $1000 bonus offered by Mr Cowie to permanent council employees, and $300 to casuals, to back the council’s stance.

“We were told that to get the $300 a casual staff member need only have worked one shift in six months, so they would have had little engagement with the shire and it would have been easy for them to accept it,” she said.

Non-nursing staff will stay on their existing EBA, which expired on 31 December, until any new agreement is ratified.

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 18 April 2017

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