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Council threatened with industrial action

7 March 2005

Christchurch City Council threatened with industrial action

The Southern Local Government Officers Union (SLGOU) has rejected the Council’s $2.1 million offer as a basis for settlement of its collective agreement negotiations.

The Council Chief Executive Lesley McTurk says she is disappointed and concerned at the Union’s decision to reject the offer and threaten industrial action before taking the offer back to its membership.

The proposed settlement provided for an additional $2.1 million increase in remuneration. This is the equivalent of a 4.5% increase in the current total wage bill for the 1150 SLGOU members - 500 of whom are already paid at or over the local government market median. This offer is on top of the $800,000 in automatic increments and $250,000 in merit-based bonuses which are entitlements that have already been paid to the 1150 covered by this collective.

Council Chief Executive Lesley McTurk said today that she had tabled the proposal at a negotiation meeting with the union last Friday, including proposals for remuneration through a mix of one-off payments and variable base rate increases to better align Council pay scales to the market.

For example some staff would receive one-off payments of between $1000 to $1500, while others would get base rate increases of 1.5%, 3.5% and 7%, depending on where their current pay rate sits in relation to the local government market median.

Greater flexibility in hours of work are sought by the Council to better suit customer needs.

Dr McTurk says the SLGOU drive has been for any increase to apply across the board for all employees but Council research shows that an across-the-board increase would not be fair to all staff or help meet Council business objectives.

“I can not meet the unions demand because to do so would cost ratepayers an additional $1 million per year and would add an extra .5 % to the already projected rate increase of 3.5%.”

The union has asked for a 6.5% increase over two years – 3.5% in lump sums and base rate increases this year and 3% on base rates across the board next year.

Dr McTurk says the union demands worsens the existing distortion in pay rates and would not align the salary grades with the Local Government market rates nationally. Paying everyone the same increase across the board not only fails to fix the problem, it would make matters worse

“So, at one end of the pay scale, we have no problems recruiting. We received more than 200 applications for six customer call centre roles because our pay is 10% above the local government market. Yet, for senior technical and professional positions where our rates are up to 30% below the local government market, we’re not able to attract applications for engineering and planning roles,” Dr McTurk says.

The effective settlement of this collective agreement was central to the Council’s ability to deliver needed services to the community. The Council’s inability to recruit and retain top-level technical and professional staff to build and maintain the city’s infrastructures was delaying major works that would cost ratepayers more and effect residents unless this problem was fixed, Dr McTurk says.

“The pay scales as they are currently structured are working against us, and we have to change them.”

Dr McTurk says: “I am committed as a good employer to pay fair wages for the jobs performed. Keeping our pay in line with the external market is not only fair to all, staff and ratepayers, it is important for the health of our organisation.”

“Council managers are now left with no option but to implement contingency plans to ensure that service disruption is minimised during any industrial action.”

ENDS

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