VINCENT council has stood down 147 staff since March 23 due to Covid-19 related closures, denying them nearly $1 million in wages.
Local governments aren’t eligible for JobKeeper payments but last month premier Mark McGowan urged councils not to stand down staff.
“Redeploy staff, put them into other roles.. we need people employed, we need jobs, and we need people out there delivering incomes into the community and we need families supported,” Mr McGowan said.
Many councils heeded the call.
Stirling redeployed some staff in-house and sent excess to help charities like Vinnies and Meals on Wheels cope with increased demand.
Bayswater redeployed almost every person put out of work when facilities like Bayswater Waves and The Rise closed. More than 60 were sent to areas like the community care team keeping in touch with older folks, fitness staff delivered library books, and others joined the parks team for mulching, revegetation, and maintenance projects.
“Staff are embracing the opportunity to experience working in new areas and gaining additional skills and knowledge,” Bayswater CEO Andrew Brien said.
Perth council has redeployed parking inspectors to safety patrols, and other staff to its Community Careline call centre.
Vincent council’s redeployment effort has seen just 28 people offered alternative full or part-time jobs.
Its latest budget numbers reveal it saved $988,864 because “casual employment has decreased significantly due to the closure of Beatty Park and library”.
In total 114 casual staff and 33 permanents have been stood down, while 21 sole traders operating at Beatty Park also lost work.
Australian Services Union branch secretary Wayne Wood told the Voice “any stand downs by local governments during Covid-19 are disappointing.
“We’ve seen many councils do the right thing by redeploying most of their staff to other essential services within the community, but some have failed.”
He’d written to Vincent in early April asking what was happening with stand downs, and was told the council was looking into redeployments; there was no mention of the large numbers of furloughed staff.
Mr Wood said with WA’s restrictions lifting as of Monday, he wanted all staff returned to work immediately.
“There is now no excuse for local governments to continue to stand down workers. The state government has announced financial assistance for councils to access, and with facilities now reopening, local governments should be preparing to get staff back to work.
“Budgetary concerns during a pandemic are understandable, but it is not right to use the current crisis to make staff savings, without proven substantial associated loss in revenue, and if there are alternative measures such as access to cash reserves and government assistance available.”
Vincent’s permanent staff were allowed to use up leave, while casual employees were given two weeks’ “special leave’ and paid what they’d usually earn.
One charity recently asked Vincent if the furloughed staff could be deployed to help them out, but was turned down.
Disability services provider Cahoots had missed out on funding at the April 28 meeting when the council was giving out $1 million of coronavirus relief cash. Cahoots usually runs youth events and during the pandemic it had been delivering groceries to people with disabilities.
Cahoots CEO Jess Karlsson asked the May 5 committee if they could get support in other ways, such as redeploying stood-down staff as “service delivery volunteers”. The answer was no.
The library’s scheduled to reopen May 18 and if the curve stays flat Beatty Park’s due to reopen towards the end of next week, abiding by state government requirements.