Melbourne council workers step up fight

Melbourne council workers are stepping up their industrial campaign against plans to undermine their conditions.

Parking inspectors have announced that they will not issue parking tickets over the AFL grand final long weekend, when tens of thousands of visitors are expected to flock to the city. Their union claims the move will cost the city of Melbourne up to $300,000 a day in lost revenue.

This will be the second three-day stretch during which inspectors refuse to issue fines as part of their dispute with the council. Last financial year, Melbourne council collected more than $42 million in parking fines. 

The Australian Services Union, which represents council workers, has been bargaining for a new enterprise agreement with the council for six months. A draft of the deal offered by the council was voted down by around two-thirds of the workforce in July.

Fed up with what the union describes as a lack of good faith from council’s negotiators, union members held a two-hour stop-work on 6 September. The strike involved library staff, town hall workers and parking officers. Around 100 striking workers rallied outside Melbourne town hall.

Central to the dispute is the council’s attempt to abolish pay scales that provide automatic pay increases as workers acquire experience. Instead, Melbourne council wants workers’ pay set at management discretion, with the only limit being broad pay brackets. The change could mean workers getting paid different wages for doing the same job. Council also wants to cut redundancy entitlements.

On top of these attacks, management want to make it impossible for workers to appeal disciplinary findings made against them by their supervisors.

At the 6 September rally, amid chants of “The workers, united, will never be defeated”, one parking officer told Red Flag why they were fighting the council’s plans: “I’m a little ant and I don’t want to be squashed”.