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Protected industrial action at Geelong Regional Libraries

Monday 24 May 2021

Geelong Regional Library Corporation (GRLC) will continue to prioritise the provision of a continuous and safe library service as some Australian Services Union members on staff commence protected industrial action.

The GRLC received official notice from the Australian Services Union (ASU) that ASU members employed by the organisation would start protected industrial actions from Thursday 20 May 2021.

The GRLC respects the right of ASU members on its staff to take protected industrial action.

The priority of the organisation is to ensure that library services to the community continue with the minimal possible disruption, whilst ensuring the safety and wellbeing of staff and library visitors.
Throughout 2020, the GRLC worked with the ASU and its representatives on negotiating a new Enterprise Agreement for the Corporation, a process which the GRLC has approached in good faith, with a commitment to ensuring a constructive process.

Given the timing of the negotiations, taking place during the COVID-19 pandemic, the GRLC proposed a postponement of negotiations on several occasions with a pay increase, which was rejected by the ASU.

Following a lengthy period of negotiation, the GRLC tabled a final offer on 28 November 2020. The GRLC’s final offer included a number of compromises made in response to feedback received during negotiations, including incremental increases to staff remuneration levels over four years and a higher pay increase for staff in lower pay bands in the first year.

Like organisations around the world, the GRLC has been forced to contend with the economic impacts brought about by COVID-19. Despite a significant loss of revenue from self-generated income streams such as venue and meeting room hire, fees and fines, as well as the impact of local government rate capping, the GRLC has managed to remain financially sustainable while maintaining its current level of staffing.

The financial environment that local government is compelled to operate in continues to provide challenges in meeting the increasing costs of delivering modern library services to a fast-growing region. This includes a State Government imposed rate cap of 1.5% and ever-diminishing ratio of state government to local government funding.

Despite this, GRLC’s proposed pay rates compare favourably with other library corporations located in regional cities and rural areas. The pay increases proposed in the GRLC’s final offer represent a generous offer given the tight fiscal conditions the organisation is operating under. The ASU’s request in regards to pay increases far exceeded what the GRLC could sustain.

The GRLC has an unwavering commitment to providing first-class library services to its communities, and prioritises the safety and wellbeing of its employees and library visitors. The organisation takes a collaborative approach to Occupational Health and Safety based on open feedback and engagement with staff to ensure a best practice approach. In addition, the GRLC created a dedicated new position in 2020 – Coordinator, Health, Safety and Wellbeing – to oversee our Occupational Health and Safety activity and to continue to embed a safety culture in the organisation.

The GRLC is unable to continuing bargaining until the organisation’s new CEO, Vanessa Schernickau, commences in the role in June 2021. Ms Schernickau was appointed to the role in late April. The CEO position has been vacant since late March, following the resignation of long-serving CEO, Patti Manolis.

“We have been, and will continue to be, committed to engaging in the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement process in good faith and in a way that is sustainable for the organisation and doesn’t impact our communities any further in terms of contribution,” Ms O’Dell, Acting CEO said.

“We are looking forward to positive negotiations recommencing when Ms Schernickau has settled into the role of CEO,” Ms O’Dell said.

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