Queensland council workers will have immediate access to more flexible work and leave arrangements to help mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 public health shutdown, following a landmark agreement between The Services Union and the Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ).
The Queensland Industrial Relations Commission today approved temporary changes to the award covering those council employees most impacted by the pandemic, comprising some 60 per cent of the state's 40,000-strong local government workforce.
The changes include making it easier for employees to be redeployed to other areas of a council's business, work more flexible hours and get early access to some forms of leave, such as long service leave.
LGAQ CEO Greg Hallam said the temporary measures – included in an application to the QIRC today – would ensure greater job security for the sector as it strives to continue delivering essential services and critical support to communities throughout the pandemic.
The Services Union Secretary Neil Henderson said keeping people in work and on pay was "the most important thing we can do right now".
"I am sure that this package of short-term measures which we have negotiated with the LGAQ will help deliver this," Mr Henderson said.
Mr Hallam said the forced closure of libraries, fitness centres, art galleries, theatres, conferencing facilities and the like, as well as the imposition of social distancing rules and travelling restrictions, all required significant changes be made to council business and workforce practices as well as impacting their bottom line.
"Many council employees are working from home, performing their work differently or, in many cases, performing alternative work altogether as local governments strive to keep their workforces productive and employed," Mr Hallam said.
"As a result of these efforts, only a small number of staff across councils have been stood down to date.
"The LGAQ and the state's 77 councils passionately share with local government unions a strong commitment to keep local government employees in work in their local communities.
"I particularly acknowledge Neil Henderson and The Services Union for their willingness to work with the Association in looking for way ways to strengthen job security for many council workers at a time when councils' finances and work practices are under significant challenge.
"The good faith discussions between the union and the LGAQ have culminated in the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission today certifying agreed changes to award conditions for many workers whose jobs have been impacted by the pandemic.
"These changes will make it easier for councils to ensure any workers who have been displaced as a result of the pandemic can remain engaged in productive and meaningful employment.
"We remain disappointed at the Federal Government's decision not to include local government in its JobKeeper program, a decision that has put council workers at a disadvantage compared to workers in other sectors."
For more information, please contact:
Neil Henderson, The Services Union Secretary
Sarah Vogler, Media Executive
Local Government Association of Queensland