Lack of support for council workers ‘disappointing’

STOOD down PARC employees are still stranded without pay. Picture: Supplied

STOOD down Peninsula Aquatic Recreation Centre employees are no closer to receiving financial support during the COVID-19 crisis.

Workers employed through local councils have been hit hard during the coronavirus pandemic, and are not eligible to receive the federal government’s JobKeeper supplement.

Almost 300 staff stood down at PARC were left without pay in March because the pool is operated by Peninsula Leisure, a council-owned entity.

Frankston mayor Sandra Mayer has written to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg asking for local government employees to be included in the JobKeeper scheme.

“Following the closure of leisure centres in March 2020 as a measure to combat the spread of COVID-19, PARC has lost approximately $1 million of revenue each month – a significant gap that council alone cannot fill whilst continuing to deliver vital services, infrastructure upgrades and projects to our community,” Cr Mayer wrote.

“The Australian government’s decision to specifically exclude local government employees and employees of subsidiary organisations from the JobKeeper payment is extremely disappointing and has already resulted in over 259 casual employees being regrettably stood down locally.

“Receiving the JobKeeper payment will mean these local jobs will have the security they need to get through this difficult and uncertain time, especially for those whose personal circumstances may mean they are ineligible for the JobSeeker payment.”

Cr Mayer asked the federal government to “seek an amendment to the JobKeeper Scheme eligibility definitions to improve its support for local businesses” and “seek a reversal of the Australian government’s decision to exclude local government employees from the JobKeeper program and eligibility criteria.”

Federal Liberal senator and patron for Dunkley, David Van, diverted responsibility to the state government.  “I call upon the Victorian Government to expand their support for Victorian casual public sector employees to include the Victorian local council employees who they are currently leaving behind,” he said.

“Currently, local government employees who have lost their jobs are being supported by the federal government’s JobSeeker Payment and Coronavirus Supplement, but are being ignored by the Andrews Government. For example nearly 300 employees from Peninsula Aquatic and Recreation Centre, a subsidiary of Frankston City Council, have been stood down and neither the council nor the state government are supporting them,” Senator Van said.

“The National Cabinet agreed on 3 April that state governments are responsible for helping local councils manage the impact of COVID-19.

“While I was pleased to see the Victorian Government take responsibility for casual Victorian public sector employees through the Jobs and Skills Exchange Program, I was disappointed that they chose not to extend this support to employees of local councils and their subsidiaries.”

259 casual staff and 26 permanent staff were stood down at PARC on 23 March. Peninsula Leisure CEO Tim Gledhill said “we are committed to having all our people back at work as soon as possible to support the reopening and to ensure PARC is positioned to once again deliver high quality health and wellbeing services to the Frankston community (“Stood down PARC workers ineligible for support program”, The Times, 20/4/20).”

First published in the Frankston Times – 11 May 2020

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