‘Too many bosses’

Staff say top-heavy council bigger problem than coronavirus

WHILE Fremantle’s economy headed south even before Covid-19 became an issue, the local council was becoming bloated with managers, claim workers.

Speaking out through their union, the Local Government Racing and Cemeteries Employees Union, the workers represent many from the council’s depot who’ve been stood down or forced to take wage cuts.

Union secretary Andrew Johnson told the Herald there were about 60 members at the council, who normally couldn’t speak out because of the council’s rules against talking to the media.

But Mr Johnson said they wanted to get their point of view across because they were concerned there were structural issues at the council that had been exposed by Covid-19 but would still exist once the pandemic passed.

In a release, the workers say that between June 2017 and June 2019 the number of council staff on more than $100,000 had increased 70 per cent from 40 to 68. This was at a time the state’s economy was suffering from the downturn of the mining boom and For Lease signs were going up in Fremantle shops.

“Last year … the council’s publicly reported information shows that the approximate cost of the top 68 employees equated to about $9.1 million out of a total employee cost of $37.8 million,” the release said.

“This pathway is not sustainable, and the lower paid and essential employees should not have to shoulder the disproportionate burden of this problem.

“After all, a 20 per cent cut of a salary of over $100,000 is quite different in dimension to a cut to a salary of $55,000-$60,000.

“Our members work in the areas of cleaning, engineering, parks and waste services providing essential physical services to the ratepayers and community of the city of Fremantle.

“Some of them are ratepayers of the city of Fremantle.”

The workers said they were “bewildered and deeply concerned” the council’s latest budget figures showed it had received $67.6m in operating revenue but had only spent $49.5m, while they were being asked to go part-time or had been stood down.

“A 20 per cent reduction in their wages is exceedingly difficult to sustain.

“At the same time they do understand that many in the community are in a far worse position than they are; but the council also has at its disposal according to the March 25 minutes, $50m in cash reserves, $29.9m of which is in unrestricted cash.”

The Herald approached Fremantle council for a response Thursday afternoon, but hadn’t heard back by the time the paper was sent to the printers later that evening.

By STEVE GRANT

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