COUNCILLORS could have the right to participate in staff wage negotiations and hiring if a controversial bid by Moyne Shire Council is approved.
The council voted 5-1 this week to write to Local Government Minister Jeanette Powell and member for South West Coast Denis Napthine asking for legislative changes to allow councillors to be involved in enterprise bargaining negotiations and other employment issues.
However, the Australian Services Union warned it would oppose the move and doubted if the government would alter the status quo.
The union understands Moyne is the first municipality in Victoria to officially seek these powers.
Cr James Purcell led the push after a report from council chief executive David Madden showed shire employee costs increased by about $2.7 million between 2008 and 2010.
An internal audit found EBA adjustments and movement within pay bands took the actual wage increase to 4.5 per cent.
Full-time staff numbers rose by 32 between 2007 and 2012 including 17 positions funded by government grants and other exterior funding.
“It is essential that in future EBA negotiations that senior staff and councillors are made aware of the entire impact of any EBA increases,” Mr Madden said
However, he reminded councillors the Local Government Act was “very clear” in giving the chief executive power to appoint as many staff as needed and was responsible for the EBA while the council was responsible for the budget.
The only councillor to speak against the move was Jill Parker who said she was worried it would affect the clear delineation between councillors and officers.
“We’d become too involved in staffing rather than governance,” she said.
Cr Purcell said the current law prevented a ratepayer representative from being on the staff selection panel.
“My motion is not meant to be having a go at the chief executive, but it is saying to change the act so councillors who are elected can oversee all operations of the council,” he said.
“Wages cost about $50m for this council and every change affects our bottom line.”
Cr Bernie Harris also said councillors should have more say in wage negotiations.
The council also decided to have future budget documents contain details on additional staff positions as well as specific pre-budget discussions on the impact of the EBA.
Union regional organiser Mark Brady said councillors: “are not elected to meddle in the day-to-day operations”.
“No other council has tried this on and we would certainly oppose it.”