The NSW government is bringing back its local government job retention allowance for council employees affected by the ongoing outbreak of the covid-19 Delta variant.
The $1,500 allowance was introduced in April last year as part of the state government’s local government economic stimulus package to help councils support staff who had been stood down.
On Friday local Government Shelley Hancock said she was reintroducing the wage subsidy to support council workers across the state.
The allowance provides $1,500 a fortnight per eligible employee for up to three months.
Up to $112.5 million was provided for the allowance in the first round however a budget estimates committee heard in March that only $479,552 had been paid out to councils as at December 18.
The biggest payout had gone to Waverley Council ($225,952) with North Sydney Council receiving $75,596; Cumberland $65,391; Canterbury-Bankstown $47,456; Mosman $33,000; Lismore $23,979 and Albury $8,177.
Lessons from last rollout
LGNSW President Linda Scott said there were lessons to be learned from the last rollout, when only one per cent of the available funds were accessed.
“The criteria for that CJRA rollout were so convoluted and restrictive that many councils could not take advantage of them,” she said.
“Making those unspent funds easily accessible now is urgent and important – but unless it gets out the door fast it will fail in its objective of saving jobs and supporting local communities.”
Ms Hancock said the government was determined to support local government employees in keeping their jobs, and to ensure local councils retain skilled and experienced staff.
“There is no doubt that we need to remain adaptable to the volatile environment in which we find ourselves because of the evolving COVID-19 outbreak in NSW,” she said.
However she encouraged councils to try and redeploy staff wherever possible.
The union representing 30,000 of the state’s local government workers has welcomed the announcement, saying it was desperately needed and will save jobs, retain skills and protect essential workers.
USU General Secretary Graeme Kelly said the move came in response to urgent representations about the impact of the Delta outbreak from unions and the peak local government body.
“When the USU and Local Government NSW made urgent representations to the Local Government Minister about the impact of the current Delta outbreak, Minister Hancock listened to our concerns and worked closely with the sector to develop an effective, targeted support package,” he said.
“This payment won’t just provide financial certainty for council workers whose roles have been impacted by covid restrictions, it ensures councils across the state can retain skilled and experienced staff, allowing services to get back up and running as soon as restrictions are eased.”
To be eligible for the allowance councils must:
- Demonstrate a loss of at least 30 per cent in revenue
- Be a party to the Splinter Award or equivalent agreement
- Have paid the eligible employee four weeks paid COVID-19 Special Leave under the Splinter or entered into a funding agreement with OLG
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