Council workers on brink of strike amid campaign for ‘unCapp-ed’ wages

Parking fines and rate collection could be suspended in Melbourne if city council workers vote on Wednesday to take industrial action over a long-running pay dispute.

Hundreds of City of Melbourne workers have not had a pay rise for three years and, with the council planning to spend $300 million on lord mayor Sally Capp’s “passion project”, they want her to help “un-Capp” their wages.

Parking tickets might go unissued if council staff vote to strike on Wednesday. Credit:Eddie Jim

The council’s last workplace enterprise bargaining agreement expired in 2018 and negotiations for another one have failed, with no commitment for a pay increase.

Workers are expected to vote in favour of industrial action, which could include striking and refusing to issue parking fines or process rate collections.

The “Un-Capp our wages” campaign is calling on Cr Capp to secure a pay rise for workers, including back pay.

Australian Services Union (ASU) secretary Lisa Darmanin said Cr Capp had received a pay rise of $7800 in three years, or a 4 per cent pay increase, while workers’ wages had stagnated.

The Australian Services Union is launching its “Un-capp our wages campaign” with City of Melbourne workers on Wednesday.

“ASU members at the City of Melbourne served on the front line through 2020, providing essential services during the pandemic-induced lockdown,” she said.

“[They] have shown their ongoing commitment to the city but … are fearful of service cuts and continued wage suppression to fund the lord mayor’s Greenline ‘passion’ project.”

The council last month unveiled its plan to create a $300 million continuous green trail on the Yarra River’s north bank, which was an election promise of Cr Capp and one she hopes will “create a legacy”.

City of Melbourne acting chief executive Alison Leighton said Cr Capp was legally unable to negotiate an enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) with workers.

Australian Services Union secretary Lisa DarmaninCredit:Luis Ascui

“The Local Government Act specifies that councillors cannot be involved in operational matters involving staff, including negotiations around the enterprise agreement,” she said.

Cr Capp takes home $200,870 a year, a fixed allowance set by the state government that is automatically adjusted annually.

Ms Leighton said councillors’ allowances were not linked to the wages of council staff.

She said the council began EBA discussions with representatives from the ASU, Australian Nurses and Midwifery Federation and Professionals Australia in July 2020.

“When Melbourne was hit by a second lockdown the focus of all negotiation parties turned to providing more support to staff impacted by the changes and have remained so as we worked towards a COVID normal,” she said.

“During 2020, we worked tirelessly to ensure that no staff member would be stood down even when their place of work was unable to operate during restrictions.

“We are committed to recommencing negotiations as soon as possible.”

Melbourne City Council chief executive Justin Hanney’s annual salary is $498,000.

Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp.Credit:Arsineh Houspian

The lowest paid City of Melbourne workers earn $48,000 a year. They are school crossing supervisors, lifeguards and leisure services officers.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews was paid $441,000 in 2020.

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