Union targets contract

By Adrian Miller

The Clarence Valley Council is facing a showdown with the Australian Workers' Union (AWU) over its failure to publicly tender a contract for labour hire companies who provide outdoor staff for the council.

The dispute arises out of the council's continued use of labour hire company APS Pacific, which trades as APS Personnel, previously found guilty four times in the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) of not paying workers' entitlements.

Council is embroiled in the matter because under Section 127 of the Industrial Relations Act 1996 (NSW) it is legally bound to ensure all contractors pay all legal entitlements to their employees.

APS Pacific began supplying outdoor staff to the Pristine Waters Shire Council in early 2002 and has been supplying staff to the Clarence Valley Council since the council's inception.

AWU country and regional co-ordinator David Lyons said the union was calling on the council to tender the contract made with APS Pacific.

"The point the union is making is we don't believe this contract has ever gone to tender, and especially with the Clarence Valley Council, it's never been to tender," Mr Lyons claimed.

Mr Lyons said the union held a meeting with council's head of engineering services David Andrews and former acting general manager Ken Boyle in July 2004, where he was told the tender would be advertised within a month.

However, Clarence Valley Council's new general manager Stuart McPherson said he was not aware of any promise made and tenders would be called in the near future.

"It's now to a point where the labour provision does need to be the subject of a competitive tender and we are in the process of preparing the specifications for the calling of those tenders," he said.

Mr Lyons said another major concern of the union was the way the initial contract was awarded.

"The tender process of how this company was given the contract is suspect because no-one has been able to provide the union with a public tender document for the contract," he said.

Also, the contract was signed and authorised on the same day as the new council was proclaimed.

"So the same day the (Local Government) minister (Tony Kelly) made the announcement the councils would be forced to amalgamate, someone skillfully signed a contract to renew the contract with this labour hire company."

However, Mr McPherson dismissed claims there was any underhanded dealings for the original arrangement.

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