Newcastle council staff in protest

MORE than 300 Newcastle City Council employees voted to criticise the council’s handling of cost cutting and redundancy measures at a mass meeting at No.1 Sportsground yesterday.

The meeting had been approved by council management as part of the negotiating process for a new enterprise agreement, but speculation over staff cuts dominated the agenda.

While the meeting was mostly calm, a motion from the floor was passed overwhelmingly on a show of hands to express ‘‘contempt and disdain for the process... and a complete lack of confidence in senior management’’.

United Services Union organiser Robert Potter said  rumours about redundancies were ‘‘floating around’’ but nothing was certain until the elected council made a final decision in June.

Despite this, Mr Potter said he knew that redundancy estimates as high as 80 had been floated in meetings with management.

‘‘Now, any redundancies should be voluntary, and we’ve got that undertaking from both the lord mayor, Jeff McCloy, and to a certain extent from the executive team of the council,’’ he said.

On the enterprise agreement negotiations, Mr Potter said the council had offered to extend the existing agreement by a year.

The union wanted a two-year roll-over but the council rejected this, saying the union may as well negotiate a new document.

The meeting  resolved to ask for an 18-month extension, designed to protect existing conditions.

While the meeting heard some criticism of Cr McCloy, Mr Potter said the lord mayor had met union officials face-to-face, making him the first in many years to do so.

 The council declined to comment on the meeting.

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