The United Services Union, which represents tens of thousands of local government workers across NSW, has warned that any attempts to use the council amalgamation process, announced today, as cover for cuts to jobs and services will be vigorously fought.

The union also fired a shot over the bow of lobbyists in the business community, who are seeking to use the amalgamation process to have community services outsourced to the profit-driven businesses they work for.

USU general secretary Graeme Kelly said today’s announcement by Premier Mike Baird and Local Government Minister Paul Toole was another step in a long process where the views of workers residents, and ratepayers must all be taken onboard.

“Our role, first and foremost, is to make sure the voices of the tens of thousands of men and women who are the backbone of local government are heard in the amalgamation process,” Mr Kelly said.

“Representatives of the union will continue to be there, every step of the way, whether it is at hearings of the Boundaries Commission or other forums for consultation, to make sure the public wins out from any changes, rather than the big end of town.

“While our members are supportive of reforms that genuinely improve services for their local communities, they will vigorously fight any attempt to use the cover of amalgamations to drive through cuts to jobs, working conditions, or service levels.

“In particular, the union will continue to ensure key provisions of the Local Government Act that provide employment protections, in particular those contained in Sections 354 and 218CA, are strengthened and enforced.”

Mr Kelly said that the union will hold the NSW Government to account as it goes through the process of reforming local government, ensuring it is done in a transparent way, that genuine consultation occurs, and that the voices of workers, ratepayers and local residents are heard and acted upon.

“The union will insist that the employees of local government, and the voices of the community, are heard and taken onboard, so that the process of local government reform can deliver positive outcomes for the future,” he said.

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