Victorian councils say their “targeted exclusion” from the state government’s public sector support funding is a slap in the face.
Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas on Wednesday announced a $1,500 fortnightly payment for 3,000 state government workers who had lost their jobs as a result of coronavirus but were ineligible for the federal JobKeeper payment.
These include pool lifeguards, museum workers, Convention and Exhibition Centre ticket staff and staff at the Royal Botanic Gardens.
The offer did not extend to councils, he said.
“Our principle is the state of Victoria is looking after its workforce and we expect councils to do the right thing by their own employees,” he told a media conference.
The Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) has slammed the state for ignoring the good work being done by Victoria’s 79 councils to support their communities and local businesses through the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the association, about 5,000 local government casuals are currently jobless and 700 full time and part time staff have been stood down.
Council workers ‘left high and dry’
President Coral Ross said local government had already been left out of the JobKeeper program and dismissed by the federal government “creatures of state governments”.
“Now we have the Victorian Government essentially saying to council workers ‘you’re on your own’,” she said.
“Dedicated council staff in need of support have been left high and dry.”
Cr Ross said it wasn’t unreasonable for a council worker who had lost their job to expect some support from state and federal governments.
“It makes no sense that frontline workers employed by a private, not-for-profit or Victorian Government organisation can access tax-payer-funded support payments whereas those performing identical roles for councils are ineligible,” said Cr Coral Ross.
Opposition spokesman Tim Smith said council workers had been completely excluded with no assistance to help them meet the inevitable revenue shortfall that loomed in coming months.
“The state government’s view is that they’re on their own,” he said.
Other states like NSW had come to the party, he said, and Victoria should do the same.
Dean Hurlston of the Victorian ratepayers association said ratepayers didn’t want to see gouging from local government as councils tried to shore up their balance sheets.
NSW has announced a $395 council stimulus package including a council job retention allowance.
MAV has been advocating for similar support and says it will continue to do so.
Meanwhile, the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission has approved temporary award changes to give council workers more flexible work and leave conditions and the NSW IRC has approved a splinter award to protect council jobs.
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