City of Whittlesea workers, including Australian Services Union members, took a stand for better wages and conditions at the council’s civic centre at South Morang last month.

By Pam Kiriakidis

City of Whittlesea workers and executives have agreed to a new enterprise agreement following months of industrial action for better wages and conditions.

Council employees, who maintain parks and rubbish across the municipality, took various types of industrial action, including striking, over a few months after negotiations froze between City of Whittlesea executives and parks and gardens workers.

Australian Services Union, ASU, led the industrial action, which escalated last month when about 60 council workers and ASU members stood outside of council’s civic centre at South Morang calling for a new enterprise agreement.

The ASU claimed council’s proposed deal for workers rejected a range of better work and pay conditions, including 50-plus claims for improving conditions, 35-hour weeks for band three workers and the right of ‘secondary’ parents to equal parent leave.

Council was also criticised for paying private contractors to complete parks and gardens maintenance while their employees took industrial action.

Council told the Review in October it had been negotiating ‘in good faith’ with the unions over the past seven months to create an enterprise agreement for team members.

ASU deputy branch secretary Tash Wark said ASU delegates and their organiser were present at every meeting for a new enterprise agreement, and claimed the following conditions as a win for workers:

  • One of the highest pay rises in local government in Victoria – four per cent in year one;
  • Backpay to July 1, 2023;
  • $350 in pocket immediately;
  • 15 week’s primary parents’ leave;
  • Five weeks of secondary parents’ leave;
  • Better casual conversion and casual salary progression;
  • Better protections around working in adverse weather.

Ms Wark applauded the work done by the ASU rank and file at Whittlesea.

“Union membership and solidarity with fellow workers is the only way to win significant and lasting concessions from employers,” she said. 

Council chief executive Craig Lloyd said council’s offer to staff earlier this month had been agreed to by workers.

“The offer that was accepted by our staff was the same offer that was made prior to any industrial action commencing,” he said.

Mr Lloyd said it had now been lodged with Fair Work Australia for official ratification.

“We have sought to find a balance between appropriate recognition for our people and still being in the position to deliver on what we’ve promised to our community,” he said. 

In addition to wage increase for the next three years, Mr Lloyd said the agreement included a range of other employment benefits and conditions, which he said council believed was ‘fair and balanced’ for all its staff.