Mayor of the North Burnett, Rachel Chambers has led an extraordinary rebuff against what she describes as “wildly inaccurate, ludicrous, and hurtful” statements from both the AWU and social media trolls.
“I am shocked and disappointed the AWU and vicious community members have not been held to account for the nasty, false, propaganda and gossip being spread throughout our community,” Mayor Chambers said.
Mayor Chambers said Councillors, who all believe in free speech, have sat back long enough and it is time to set the record straight.
“I respect the role Unions play in representing members to secure improved pay, conditions, and job security. Unfortunately, I do not have that same respect for the way they go about drumming up business.”
“For a council who has been nothing but open and honest with our community, it is hugely disappointing to see this hurtful and deliberate attack on transparency.”
The Mayor rejected the AWU’s claim of 40 local redundancies, clarifying there has only been 10.
All of these redundancies were voluntary and made according to the process stipulated in the Certified Agreement.
NBRC offered all affected staff the option of a voluntary redundancy in the first instance, to minimise the impact on workers who wished to stay with the organisation.
“The AWU’s claim locals are locked out of the job market is ludicrous. For the record, we have never, and will never, lock any local out of the job market,” Mayor Chambers said.
In line with the Certified Agreement, the council must ensure if any staff take a redundancy, they cannot come back and contract to Council to do the same job. This clause exists to ensure Council cannot replace full time employees with contractors and as such benefits the very people the AWU represent.
The Certified Agreement does not stop anyone from working for any local contractors or businesses.
“To clarify for the AWU, the purpose of the Between a Rock and the Hard Place tour was two-fold. It was to be totally transparent with our community and share all the information previous councils hadn’t had time to. Whether this was due to dealing with natural disasters, or a choice not to, because of its unpleasant nature, is a question only they can answer. Our community needed to be aware of everything their elected representatives are facing. The key message was we have a financial obligation under current legislation to run a financially sustainable council.”
Mayor Chambers said it was critical the Council engaged the community to fight alongside the Councillors for a prosperous future. This movement is not one that Council can do alone, and the community has an immense role to play.
“I understand each Union has its own priorities for the members they represent. However, Council not only has a responsibility to our employees, we must also ensure every decision we make about the future operations of the region is affordable and acceptable to our 6,291 ratepayers. They’re the ones who ultimately pay for it.”
“As for union claims that councillors are “whinging and padding our wallets”, since amalgamation this Council has regularly written to the remuneration tribunal (the people who set the salary for Local Government elected positions) to ask them to raise the level of remuneration. A council resolution of 2011, which was unanimously supported by all councillors at the time, states “Councillors should be at the top of the remuneration range”. The current group of Councillors did not do this. The letter requested the commission be more transparent about how they set councillor remuneration and informed the commission of seemingly unfair remuneration standards compared to other councils. The letter never asked for an increase,” Mayor Chambers said.
“In response to the union’s request to prioritise local providers over out of town contractors, I draw the AWU’s attention to existing procurement legislation pertaining to Local Government. We are currently reviewing our procurement policy and any opportunities which may be expanded upon.”
“At the end of the day, both unions and council want the same thing – job opportunities for our region, fair working conditions for all staff and a safe workplace to deliver the essential services our community relies on,” Mayor Chambers said.
“As I have said before, your elected representatives are passionate local community members who had the guts to step up and work for this community.
“Trying to re-shape an organisation that can sustainably continue to deliver essential services to our community for generations to come is not easy and any decision made is not made lightly.
“My team of councillors and staff are doing the best we can under increasingly challenging circumstances. Needing to make hard decisions for the long-term benefit of our staff, our council, and our community.”
“I urge unions and some community members to stop the mudslinging and support us to get on with the job,” Mayor Chambers said.