The CEO of Central Goldfields Shire Lucy Roffey has issued a statement addressing the unpaid allowances to community care staff, saying she is "concerned that the Enterprise Agreement conditions in relation to travel had been misinterpreted by staff and management."
"The ASU raised the issue of incorrect payments of travel allowances for Home and Community Care staff in late July 2020," Ms Roffey has written.
"After undertaking an internal review to verify the scope of the claim we appointed an external expert in August 2020 to undertake a full and thorough review of all travel made over the life (3 years) of the current Enterprise Agreement.
"This review took over four months to complete given the scope of the review which covered all 31 Home and Community Care Staff's travel over three years. Care was taken by the external contractor to ensure all travel was accurately calculated both in time and kms.
"We have worked collaboratively with the union throughout this process to ensure that the issue has been fully resolved. We approved a paid meeting for Thursday 21 January 2021 to enable the ASU and staff to discuss the proposed back-pay arrangements.
"With all back payments now calculated staff will now be individually notified about the amounts they are owed and payments will be made in the next few weeks.
"As CEO I am concerned that the Enterprise Agreement conditions in relation to travel had been misinterpreted by staff and management. The processes relating to rostering and staff travel have been reviewed and amended to be in accordance with the Enterprise Agreement.
"We have a new Enterprise Agreement to be negotiated in the next few months, and I have encouraged staff to get involved and take an interest in the negotiations and be better informed about the benefits and entitlements that are outlined in the agreement.
"As part of the review of the Enterprise Agreement, we will be amending the wording around travel payments for Home and Community Care Workers so it is easier to understand and apply.
"Central Goldfields Shire Council aims to be an employer of choice, and to offer fair pay and conditions, and ensure all our staff are paid in accordance with the Enterprise Agreement."
Employees of the Central Goldfields Shire Council will receive almost $100,000 owed to them, after the organisation failed to pay travel allowances for three years.
The shire's 31 Community Support Workers, who provide personal care, respite care and property maintenance services, did not receive a travel allowance when using their private vehicle for work purposes, said the Australian Services Union, which negotiated the payment on behalf of the employees.
The total amount owed was $97,986.09.
An employee contacted the union, which then investigated and intervened on behalf of its members.
Australian Services Union executive president Billy King issued a statement saying the ASU would not accept the underpayment of workers in any industry, including local government.
"All workers reasonably expect their employer to calculate their wages accurately and pay them on time, and this hadn't been happening at Central Goldfields Shire," Mr King said.
"This historical non-payment of the travel allowance goes back years, and current council management has worked with the Australian Services Union to rectify the problem."
The allowance is set out in the Central Goldfields Shire Enterprise Agreement and is required to be paid at rates of 93 cents per km for a four-cylinder vehicle and $1.13 per km for six-cylinder.
Mr King said without the intervention of the ASU, the underpayment would have continued.
"Essential community support workers would never have seen the money they were owed. The Australian Services Union, with our industrial and legal expertise, stood by our members, and they will soon share almost $100,000 in wage repayments," Mr King said.
Ballarat Trades Hall secretary Brett Edgington was shocked such a basic condition had gone unpaid for several years in a local government setting.
"Local government has the resources and expertise to adhere to enterprise agreement conditions, so it is shocking that this has gone undetected and uncorrected by Central Goldfields for so long," Mr Edgington said.
"I congratulate the ASU members for standing up and standing together to highlight this illegality and to enforce compliance with the enterprise agreement condition."
Central Goldfields Shire CEO Lucy Roffey and mayor Chris Meddows-Taylor have been contacted for comment.
MORE TO COME.