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Head-in-sand attitude

Weekly column from Council Courier e-newsletter by CEO Greg Hallam on Friday, 7 October 2016.

Jobs, jobs, jobs – the jobs of our council workforce to be precise.

That's what we focus on in the LGAQ’s submission to the Queensland Parliament’s Finance and Administration Committee ahead of its hearing next Tuesday on the Industrial Relations Bill 2016.

On behalf of our members and the great bulk of the local government workforce - the silent majority in these proceedings - the LGAQ tells it like it is.

The loss of the single modern Local Government Award, with this legislation acting as the final nail in its coffin, will cost many council jobs. I have said that repeatedly and publicly for the last 18 months. Well now it is time to back that up with facts and figures, which we do so in our submission and will elaborate on at every opportunity.

Under the extreme changes the Government proposes, councils now face the prospect of further job losses and a decline in their capacity for further job creation.

We know now that those councils that have put new industrial arrangements in place under the single Local Government Award have been able to create more jobs. Those councils that have not moved to the new arrangements under the single award have lost jobs. It’s black and white and irrefutable.

When you have an IR system that is costly and unwieldy to administer council work is contracted out to the private sector. The submission we have made shows that to be true.

God knows how many conversations I've had with council mayors and CEOs over the years desperately wanting to maintain their workforce numbers, often down to a single gang. But the cost of over-regulation just gets too high to save those jobs when there are ratepayers and auditors-general to answer to regarding efficiency and financial sustainability.

The great irony in all the goings on over award modernisation is that it has been the employer body, the LGAQ, which has consistently stuck up for its workforce, most particularly when it comes to saving their future employment.

That commitment has been reflected in the overwhelming workforce votes of support when enterprise agreements were struck under the modern Award, with up to 90 percent support among council workers for the new deals in some cases.

At times I think I'm existing in a parallel universe when I see the head in the sand and backward looking rhetoric coming from the other side of the fence. There is no magic fairy at the bottom of the garden, budgets must be balanced by law. More labour costs equals less jobs.

Councils all over the state, and particularly those in indigenous and rural and remote places, put a very high premium on continued healthy local employment. It’s good for their communities. It’s good for their economies. The impact on jobs is why the LGAQ campaigns so hard on external funding support, particularly road funding, and continues to fight for a fair and reasonable industrial relations structure that preserves the jobs of our highly valued and respected workforce.

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