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05 December 2016 Posted by 


Fears over waste privatisation

By Iliana Stillitano

WASTE services staff at Cumberland Council face an uncertain future with fears the garbage collection will be privatised.

The United Services Union, which represents local government employees, has called on the council administrator to put a halt to any plans to outsource services until a new council is elected next year.

Union organiser Holly Murrell, who has started a Change.org petition, said the outsourcing of waste services would not only impact on staff but decrease services to the community.

The move towards privatisation was mooted in a waste service rationalisation report commissioned by administrator Viv May and tabled at the October 6 council meeting.

That report found the current garbage service needed immediate improvement to remain viable – either through the purchase of eight garbage compactors for the in-house service or by contracting out the entire service from November 2017.

Former Holroyd mayor Greg Cummings has been a vocal opponent of outsourcing, describing it as a bid to “corporatise local government”.

“They fail to see that local government is service driven not profit driven,” he said.

“As long as the community feels it’s getting a fair deal, why would you want to reduce the entitlements of locals?”

The report says 17 full time waste services staff would be offered voluntary redundancies or alternative positions while some would retire. Others would be offered assistance to transfer to the successful contractor.

The cost to ratepayers in redundancy and transfer payments would be more than $1.1 million, not including long service and annual leave entitlements.

The report says privatising the kerbside collection would save the council 20 per cent but concedes such a move could leave the council open to industrial action.

General manager Malcolm Ryan said employees’ jobs would be protected.

“Council must consider how we can provide a service to residents that provides the best value for money to ratepayers and delivers high quality outcomes,” he said.

The prospect of privatising the waste collection service has raised the ire of many residents. At a recent council meeting, resident Luke Ahern used the public forum to ask whether there would be an increase in waste collection costs to ratepayers as a result of privatisation.

Mr May responded: “I am not going through all this pain to increase costs.”

Others used the online petition to share their opinion, including one who said: “I think we should let the community who pay the rates decide how we want our services to be managed.”

“The council employees provide a great service and I want it to continue that way,” another said.

Mr Cummings said the former Holroyd Council had received awards for its waste service and it shouldn’t be tampered with. He said he feared the administration would not stop at just outsourcing waste services and could turn its attention to other council delivered services like childcare.

“These decisions should be left up to the people who have been elected by the community. I would rather see them bring the election forward,” he said.

A working group, comprising council staff and the United Services Union, has been formed to assess the options outlined in the report. The results of that review are expected by the end of November.

The matter is due to go before the December 21 meeting of council.



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