Your local council typically employs many hundreds of staff
These staff work across many areas including pools, parks, libraries, elderly in home support, youth services, maternal health, rubbish collection, customer service, roads, planning and so much more.
The local government sector is underpinned by a highly “unionised” workforce typically represented by the Australian Services Union (ASU).
Councils are now struggling to manage these staff costs and provide efficient and cost effective services. According to Simon Hammersley from the ASU, there are 30 of Victorias 79 Councils with outstanding EBAs. Some staff haven’t had pay rises in 2 years.
So where to?
Councils have started outsourcing pools and aquatic services already where their own staff earn about $30 per hour and in the contractor space the non unionised award rates are half this!
Elderly in home support services and meals on wheels are now on the chopping block. Federal funding used to be given to councils in advance, based on population not usage. This enables councils to perform services for a very low subsidised rate (typically $6-10 per hr)
Councils have been banking millions in grants in this area for years due to low usage numbers.
Now that the federal govt has moved to a pay in arrears model (based on usage) councils are fast dumping the service and referring to an outsourced external provider. This will dramatically push up the support costs for those who need in home help to remain in their home. Some costs will go from $10hr to $55+ per hour.
We already have a shortage of nursing homes. This will further marginalise low income senior members of our community that have been able to remain in their homes with this low cost support. It will place pressure on nursing home availability and place pressure on families with elderly members living alone.
What’s next? Maternal Health? Libraries?
Council staff cross skilling is needed in the short term.
Some councils like Hobsons Bay have recognised this and recently agreed to cross train their librarians in general customer service.
This helps spread the wage cost and is an efficient practice. Sadly librarians are out in force protesting despite their reasonably high salaries. They are asking the ASU to help them prevent any other duties be added. It must be exhausting for librarians to answer general enquiries from residents in their libraries.
Why are the council staff so opposed to anything but the status quo?
There are many anecdotal stories across the sector of council staff working less hours a day than most of us or knocking off early on a regular basis This is especially in non office based roles. Combine that with relatively high pay rates and no wonder council can be a dream job for some.
When local government is paying staff 2-3
Times the award rates of private enterprise is it actually time to deregulate local
Councils and turn them into nothing but outsourced contract providers for the best service and cheapest cost?
Have councils literally made themselves ultimately redundant because their costs models are no longer fit for purpose and competitive?
Is it time we forced council executives to find cheaper, market based solutions to their overpaid in-house staff?
I guess ratepayers and residents paying rates and fees would certainly hope so!