New Plymouth District Council is surprised by a turn-around which has seen 47 parks staff begin a week of rolling strikes.
“We had reached an agreement with the union official this week that a negotiation meeting with the staff and a mediator would be held on 25 March, so we’re surprised by this turn-around to issue a notice of industrial action,” says Acting Chief Executive Frank Versteeg.
The council has been negotiating a new collection with the EPMU since September last year.
During negotiations the council had reached an agreement at mediation, but this was later not recommended by the union and therefore rejected by the union members.
“The offer we have made is a very fair one,” says Mr Versteeg.
“It is based on moving those members of the Parks Team who are parties to the collective onto a performance-based pay system that is linked to the market, which 80 per cent of council staff are on now.
“We have offered to ease them into this system with a guaranteed minimum increase of five per cent in year one and four per cent in year two, without this being linked to performance until the third year, and we have also made concessions on other matters along the way.
“We will not negotiate while industrial action is occurring, but when the union is willing to return to the negotiating table, we will be willing to sit down with them and continue our discussions.”
Mr Versteeg says there is the potential for a short-term drop in some levels of service during the strike, particularly in mowing and gardening around non-critical sites. “Also, we may also not be able to respond to requests for service from the public within our usual response times, but we will endeavour to keep our operations running normally.”