Call to reverse sackings


Benjamin Millar

Western suburbs state MPs are calling on Maribyrnong council to reverse its “shock” decision to sack 150 casual staff in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Maribyrnong council last month terminated the employment of 150 casual workers due to the forced closure of the Maribyrnong Aquatic Centre and council-run libraries and community centres.

The sackings have been slammed by the Australian Services Union and criticised by Footscray MP Katie Hall, Williamstown MP Melissa Horne and state legislative council member Ingrid Stitt.

An ASU petition seeking reinstatement of the workers, launched last week, has attracted more than 600 signatures.

“Terminating staff was unnecessary and will worsen the impacts of COVID-19 on our community … Maribyrnong has no justification to sever the employment of staff when the option to stand them down was available,” the petition states.

Maribyrnong council chief executive Stephen Wall told last month’s council meeting the job losses resulted from the federal government’s decision to close a number of customer-facing facilities, including aquatic and community centres and libraries.

He said the terminations were to help casuals ineligible for the JobKeeper scheme to access government support.

But a strongly-worded joint letter from the Labor MPs sent to Mr Wall last Wednesday, seen by Star Weekly, argued the terminations were “an unnecessary shock” to the staff, particularly when the council had the option to stand down staff instead.

“It is with disappointment that we note many of these employees have worked for council on a long-term basis, including at least one person who has worked for council for over 20 years,” the letter stated.

“While a termination letter has no bearing on JobSeeker eligibility, it does break the continuous service recognition of these 150 employees, even those who have been rehired.”

The letter noted that many were long-term staff who carried out the same roles on the same days week after week.

“We are also deeply concerned about the mental health impact that the terminations may have on these workers, many of whom live in the western suburbs, including within Maribyrnong City Council area,” it stated.

“We respectfully request that the 150 terminations are each rescinded, so that staff are available for redeployment and work when services reopen.”

ASU Branch Secretary Lisa Darmanin said no other council in Victoria had terminated the employment of so many staff.

“What we’ve seen other councils do is work to try and redeploy workers into other roles,” she said.

“We attended the Fair Work Commission and they provided advice that the council could rescind the terminations, and we think they should.”

Maribyrnong council was contacted for comment.