Queensland has followed NSW in making temporary award changes to prevent the loss of council jobs during COVID-19.
Queensland council workers have won more flexible work and leave conditions following the changes brokered by unions and the local government peak.
The Queensland Industrial Relations Commission last week approved the temporary changes, which will covering some 24,000 staff whose jobs have been directly affected by the pandemic – more than half of the local government workforce.
The agreement comes after NSW Industrial Relations Commission earlier this month approved an opt-in splinter award for local government employees.
LGNSW and the union representing council workers, the United Services Union, worked together to develop the award, which will apply for 12 months and sit alongside existing local government awards and enterprise agreements.
Under the splinter award, the NSW councils will have to find suitable work for employees whose usual jobs have been disrupted or pay affected workers a weekly job retention allowance of $858.20 for 13 weeks.
The move to alter state awards comes after councils were left out of the federal government’s JobKeeper program, which delivered a blow to cash-strapped councils across the country and drew an angry response from local government.
The Queensland changes, agreed to by LGAQ and the Services Union, will make it easier to redeploy employees, allow them to work more flexible hours and get early access to long service leave.
LGAQ CEO Greg Hallam said despite the forced closure of libraries, fitness centres, art galleries, theatres and conferencing facilities, as well as social distancing rules and travelling restrictions, only a small number of the state’s local government staff had lost jobs.
However he says the measures will ensure greater job security for the sector during the pandemic.
Services Union Secretary Neil Henderson said the short-term measures would keep people in work. “This is the most important thing we can do right now”, he said.
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