City calls for state government support for local councils

The City’s CEO and Mayor have written an open letter to Victorian
Premier Daniel Andrews today, seeking his personal intervention to help council
workers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Due to facility closures under directions from the State,
576 permanent and casual City employees are left without a place to work.

The City initially provided these workers with two-weeks’
special pay, redeployment opportunities and extended leave entitlements.

Following conversations with councillors and employees,
as well as representation from local politicians, it was decided to provide an
additional two weeks’ regular pay to impacted permanent employees. This support
will cost the Geelong ratepayer community a further $450,000.

During this two-week period, we will continue to seek to
redeploy as many staff as possible into other available roles. However,
employees that are unable to be redeployed will have to access their leave
again after this period, if we are not provided support from the state

In the letter,
the City urges the state government to provide a support package that will
allow them to retain these workers.

It is simply unsustainable for the Geelong community to
pay $450,000 per fortnight for employees who don’t have a place to work.

As local council
employees, workers at the City’s leisure, visitor and arts facilities are
ineligible for the federal government’s JobKeeper payments. This is despite
other people employed in similar roles in private businesses being eligible for
these payments.

The federal
government has made it clear that support for local councils must come from the
state government.

The State Government “Working for Victoria fund” does not
provide us with support to retain our employees.

The following statements to be attributed to City
of Greater Geelong CEO Martin Cutter:

For most organisations impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, the JobKeeper
payment is an excellent solution for keeping staff engaged in businesses during
this time.

Unfortunately, local council employees are ineligible for
this payment – meaning 576 hard-working people in our region miss out.

We need the state government to help us retain our
workers and be ready to get our community back on its
feet as quickly as we can.

As the local council we have a duty to manage ratepayers’
money responsibly. These necessary facility closures have placed us in a very
difficult position as we weigh up our ability to support our employees while
continuing to provide vital community services.

Now, more than ever it is time for all levels of
government to work together.

The following statements to be attributed to City
of Greater Geelong Mayor Stephanie Asher:

We urge the state government to rectify the inequity and
provide local councils with appropriate support to retain our employees.

This will allow us to keep our highly-valued, vital
workforce employed and engaged with our organisation and community.

As the local council, we are doing what we can to support
our community and local businesses, including our extensive business support
package. These measures include fee refunds, reduction of rent in City
buildings, expert business mentoring and free on-street parking in the CBD.

Council is committed to doing what we can to get our
community through this incredibly tough time – and we will get through it.

We are asking the state government to get behind us as we
do our best to support the Greater Geelong community through this difficult and
unprecedented time.

/Public Release. View in full here.