THE AUSTRALIAN Services Union has reported good progress with the Baw Baw Shire in discussions over the council’s proposed restructure.
Above: A union flag flies at Wednesday's meeting, which took place outside the council chambers.
First published in the 13 March 2015 edition of the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen. Get your copy today from retailers across Baw Baw.
ASU Gippsland organiser Cameron Wright told media on Wednesday a Fair Work Australia conciliation hearing between the union, which represents staff members, and the council had been productive.
“We took some really good, positive steps today,” he said.
“Now we’ve got an agreed process in place where all parties have agreed to not play this out with the media.”
The union and council will next meet on Friday to discuss the restructure, the draft of which flagged 35 potential redundancies in the short term.
Responding to a question from the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen, Mr Wright said the plan to confirm the changes by last Wednesday had been put on hold.
“What was made clear today by the executive management team was we’re still in a consultation process,” he said.
“No decisions about redundancies have been made.
“It might be weeks away until a final decision is made.
“It was a worthwhile discussion with the assistant [Fair Work] commissioner.
“We were there for two or three hours going through our concerns and their concerns.
“There was a fair bit of misinformation; as you can appreciate with a document this large the rumours and the lunch room discussions might not be exactly what’s happening.
“I think today (Wednesday) was a useful exercise in terms of we are now (sic) on the same page on how we want to move forward. It’s a case of us now sitting down with them and going through all the things we have discussed for the last couple of weeks.”
Mr Wright said he had “walked out with a really positive mindset moving into Friday’s discussions.”
A staff briefing chaired by ASU branch coordinator Michelle Jackson was held on Wednesday afternoon in Civic Park, Warragul.
At the meeting Ms Jackson said “no timeline for the consultation period has been set by the commission.”
“It’s when it’s done it’s done,” she said.
“It could be a month, it could be longer.”
A number of staff expressed concerns about the indefinite consultation period, with one staff member saying some would simply like to take the redundancy package and questioning whether staff “had any trust or faith in the organisation anymore.”
Ms Jackson told staff the union did not believe the process had been conducted properly up until Wednesday.
Baw Baw CEO Helen Anstis was approached by WBBC to answer questions on the proposed restructure but she declined to comment.
Ms Jackson said while there was no place for consultation for the 45 positions flagged as outsourceable, there would be a chance for staff who could be made redundant to challenge their redundancy once the replacement position descriptions were finalised.
“There will be a chance to argue there is no new position, that is my position and I should stay in it,” she told staff.
“Unfortunately we can’t stop the restructure.”
It was not all positivity from the union though, with representatives saying the Fair Work Commission could not tell an employer how to run a business “even if it’s stupid” and “the Fair Work Act isn’t fair.”
Ms Jackson encouraged staff and members of the public to like the “Save Baw Baw Shire Services” Facebook page, which she was involved with running.
Asked by the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen if he was aware of other councils looking to make similar structural changes to Baw Baw, Mr Wright said there were discussions happening across Gippsland.
“I’m meeting with East Gippsland Shire next week to discuss a potential restructure,” he said.
“I was also on the phone with South Gippsland Shire earlier today, they were looking at how they do their business. That’s no different to anywhere else in Victoria though I suppose.
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