Council restructure taken to NSW Industrial Relations Commission

Bega Valley Shire Council will front the NSW Industrial Relations Commission due to a dispute over moves to cut staff.

United Services Union spokesman Stuart Geddes said the industrial dispute is in relation to redundancies in council’s community services department, following recent funding cuts stemming from this year’s budget.

Mr Geddes claimed some council staff are being asked to reapply for their jobs, often with a reduction in wage.

The hearing is set for October 25, with IRC commissioner Peter Newall presiding.

Council’s director of community, relations and leisure, Anthony Basford, said four positions have been made redundant in his portfolio, and three contracted roles will not be renewed. The changes are said to be making savings to help fund the shire’s road works.

However, it will not be known exactly how much will be paid out by council for any voluntary redundancies until the current restructuring is finalised.

“During this year’s budget process, council resolved to reallocate $1.4million to roads resealing,” he said.

“Senior staff were directed to find savings, efficiencies and income to offset this additional expenditure.”

Mr Basford said the budget resolution had specified “at least $250,000” in organisational staffing savings be found through a review of jobs in the community, relations and leisure and strategy and business service groups.

In her submission to this year’s draft budget addressed to council’s general manager, Leanne Barnes, Cr Robyn Bain revealed cuts to communications, community development and community culture had been “discussed with yourself and the rest of the councillors during many of our briefing sessions”.

During a council meeting on June 28, all nine councillors voted in favour of the motion, raised by Mayor Kristy McBain and Cr Bain.

Ms Barnes said this week, budget constraints are to blame for the restructure.

“This is a very challenging time for many people within the organisation and we ask that the broader community remains patient as we work through implementing these changes in the coming days, weeks and months.” she said this week.

“Along with prioritising the roadworks funding, senior staff have also taken the opportunity to refocus resources towards providing better communication and community engagement processes.

“One of the significant challenges of working in local government is consistently juggling priorities within tight budget constraints and in this case there are some roles that have been removed from the organisation’s structure to achieve the required savings.

“The proposed staffing changes include a reduction in the place-based officer positions; alterations to the leisure and recreation team; the consolidation of the positions overseeing the Bega Valley Regional Learning Centre and Bega Valley Commemorative Civic Centre; the consolidation of community development and integrated planning and reporting coordination; and changes in reporting lines for property services, halls and cemeteries, regional gallery and events positions.”

Council directors have met with staff to discuss the impact on their jobs, “identify any redeployment opportunities available and to request input”, beginning a 28-day consultation period, ending on October 18, she said.

Ms Barnes said USU representatives have provided “valuable input” throughout the process “and will continue to play a key role as decisions are finalised”.

Mayor Kristy McBain declined to comment on the staff restructuring until after next week’s hearing.