Workers at the Moreland City Council are taking industrial action after management proposed a pay offer which will lead to a pay cut in real terms.
Workers, members of the Australian Services Union (ASU), the Municipal and Utilities Workers Union (MUWU) and council management have been negotiating a new enterprise bargaining agreement since last August.
Victorian ASU secretary Lisa Darmanin said that workers had been left with no choice but to escalate industrial action after the 2% wage offer — well below the inflation rate of 5.5%.
Management has also refused to seriously consider union demands to address a toxic workplace culture and to offer a regular span of hours for library staff.
Workers are taking protected industrial action, beginning work bans on April 20 after a ballot. Twenty-five bans are in place, including: restrictions on street cleaning and sweeping; emptying street litter bins; and litter pick up and collection of garbage from council reserves.
Other bans include: refusing to respond to non-urgent requests by councillors; not fixing or servicing the council fleet, plant or equipment except for safety reasons and refusing to take phone calls outside of working hours.
Union members are wearing badges in support of their claims and in-home support workers are performing their duties in plain clothes, rather than council uniforms.
The workers taking industrial action are the same people who kept services going throughout lockdowns and the pandemic. Some are hard at work cleaning streets from 3.30am. Moreland council has retaliated, hiring scab labour to carry out some jobs.
MUWU workers took a 24-hour strike action on May 4, with a picket line at the council depot in Hadfield. ASU members were on a picket line at the council operations centre in Hadfield and had a stop work rally at the Brunswick Town Hall, attended by more than 100 people.
Speakers included Moreland library workers, Darmanin, Victorian Trades Hall Council secretary Luke Hilakari, ASU organiser Luke Cherry and Moreland Councillor and Socialist Alliance candidate for Wills Sue Bolton.
“We’re not here just as librarians; we are here for our peers in aged care, child care and kindergarten community care,” said Adelaide, who works at the Moreland City libraries.
“If council is allowed to get away with giving us less than what is right and decent, other councils will be able to as well. We are here for all council staff across the state and all council workers everywhere.”
The ASU and MUWU are urging council to return to bargaining to resolve the approximately 40 outstanding items. They are committing to these and a fair pay rise.
Bolton told Green Left that council ended negotiations knowing these items, a high priority for workers, were left unresolved. “The problem is that federal and state governments have implemented very low wage caps, way below inflation, and councils are following in their footsteps. Councils should not use rate capping as an excuse not to pay workers properly,” she said.
The unions are asking residents and ratepayers to support the workers by posting solidarity messages on the council’s social media sites.