pen-and-padMANY readers of the Sentinel-Times have been outraged by the revelations in recent weeks that there are 14 employees at the Bass Coast Shire Council being paid upwards of $130,000 a year, three of them over $200,000 and the new CEO, Paul Buckley, close to $300,000.
It might also come as a surprise that the shire’s wages bill has gone up by 12%, 6% and 8.8% over the past three years with rises of 7%, 6.7% and 6.9% projected to follow.
In fact, the average wage per employee at the shire, obviously skewed by the high executive salaries, is set to hit $100,000 next financial year.
At $28.7 million now, employee costs will rise to $30.7m, $32.7m and $35m over the next three years.
The first instinct with all these things is to blame the councillors.
But the fact is that the elected shire representatives right across Victoria are specifically barred from playing any role whatsoever in EBA negotiations at their local shires.
The staff union representatives, employees and CEO decide what the conditions of employment and wage rises will be over the coming years and in Bass Coast’s case, there’s an agreed 4 per cent more for next year in the pipeline.
South Gippsland’s staff have a similar increase coming.
Both rises are completely out-of-step with the CPI and economic conditions, not to mention the constraints that are about to be imposed on rate raises by the new Andrews government.
What would it be like for private business if the staff decided how much pay they should receive? It’s a nice idea but it’s tantamount to having Dracula in charge of the blood bank or the kids in charge of the lolly shop!
Jeff Kennett definitely got that wrong when he restructured local government back in the 1990s.
Shire CEOs will tell you that there are a lot of efficiency pressures on them that would preclude sweetheart deals for their colleagues but it stands to reason, these are the people they work with every day and they understandably have an emotional interest in seeing that they are well remunerated.
But it has to change.
At the moment our councillors can only say what services they want delivered. They cannot call for restraint where wages and conditions are concerned.
Another problem is that each individual shire CEO negotiates his or her shire’s EBA so that if you have one CEO who is more benevolent towards the staff than another, there is the potential for inefficient conditions and wage rises out of kilter with what’s reasonable and accordable to be offered.
The impression we get in the community is that shire employees are paid considerably more than their counterparts in the general community and also enjoy better conditions. It’s time to prove if this is fact or fiction.
Overall though, if Mr Andrews is going to insist on rates capped to the CPI, as he was elected to do, he must undertake a complete review of Local Government in this state and the relevant Act.