Toowoomba Council refuses to pay workers 85c per hour Asbestos Allowance
The Toowoomba Regional Council (TRC) has failed to negotiate in good faith with the Combined TRC Unions, which includes the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), at a negotiations meeting on Wednesday 7 July. The TRC has only partially agreed to a couple of items what was originally 64 claims, but are reluctant to put commitments in writing.
One of the rejected claims was for Waste Management workers to be paid Asbestos Allowance as per the Building and Construction Award, which is only 85c per hour and electricians to be paid an allowance for working with high voltage.
Dan McGaw, ETU Organiser and employee representative for the TRC Combined Unions, says that the Council and its CEO has been ignoring employee feedback survey results citing a toxic workplace culture for far too long. However, this feedback has not resulted in the Council offering commitments of improved work conditions.
“Workers have been giving feedback on the terrible culture and working conditions for a long time, moral is at an all-time low, bullying and harassment is at record levels and staff are leaving in droves” says Mr McGaw. “The Council and CEO is just not interested. Now they’re refusing to negotiate with us in good faith. We’re being extremely reasonable and have reduced our claims significantly.”
In an effort to move things forward and in the interest of bargaining in good faith, the Combined TRC Unions reduced their log of claims from 64 to 27 items at a negotiation meeting on Friday 18 June. Another meeting was held on Wednesday 7 July, where TRC barely responded to the claims.
“They came back to the table clearly having not considered our requests at all,” says Dan McGaw. “They returned with three half-thought-out offers scribbled on a white board. It was barely legible, and at the time they refused to put it in writing. We reduced our claims once again. They committed to provide a response by last Thursday and again were late. They are just treating their workers with contempt”
“One example of the appalling culture and conditions at the Council is its refusal to pay Waste Management workers Asbestos Allowance. Those workers are handling what’s known to be lethal material, yet are not getting fairly compensated for it. And the allowance is only an extra 85 cents an hour.
“We also have electricians working in hazardous areas on high voltage equipment and they refuse to acknowledge the dangerous work they do. They offered an insulting $8.50 per week increase to the electricians.
“They’re quick to claim that they pay workers 2.9% above the minimum Superannuation contributions, but that simply isn’t true. The legislation states that employers must pay 12% super, and the Toowoomba Council is paying 12.4%. That’s 0.4% above what’s mandatory, it’s not 2.9% at all,” says Mr McGaw. “They’re lying to their workers.”
The Combined TRC Unions have put in multiple requests, made numerous claims, and reduced said claims in the interest of good faith bargaining. The Council has made commitments but still has not put them in writing or offered a formalised response.
TRC is more than happy to pay consultants and contractors hundreds of thousands of dollars every month but offering a decent and fair pay deal to their workers is out of the question. The CEO and Senior managers have lost touch with the workers and have no idea what these front-line workers do.
“We’ve gone as far as we can to negotiate with them in good faith,” says Mr McGaw. “We don’t have many options left. Each of the Union Organisers will be consulting with their respective Members to determine where we’ll go from here. We’re not giving up. Far from it.”
For more information, please call Dan McGaw on 0437 012 451 or Kristin Perissinotto on 0448 633 858.