Workers to hit streets to protest against cuts to jobs
NATIONAL Parks and Wildlife staff will hold a demonstration today to protest against a State Government proposal they say will downgrade the service in the Clarence Valley.
The northern region organiser of the Public Service Association, Asren Pugh, said the demonstrators would assemble outside the State Government offices at 49 Victoria St, at 1pm, then march to the office of the Member for Clarence, Chris Gulaptis, in Prince St.
The PSA has organised similar events for Katoomba, Queanbeyan, Griffith, Wollongong and Newcastle.
Mr Pugh said there were two main issues with the proposal, which would amalgamate the Clarence Valley North and Clarence Valley South NPWS districts and move the regional office to Coffs Harbour.
"We asked our members in the office to do a quick head count and they told us the amalgamation was going to reduce the number of positions from about 45 to around 37," he said.
"That's a loss of between seven and nine positions.
"The real worry is that they're cutting a lot of the more experienced technical positions like fire managers and pest managers and replacing them with lower paid administrative roles."
Mr Pugh said the loss of the fire managers and pest managers would be a significant downgrade to the services the NPWS could provide to local landholders.
"It's mystifying why the National Party would allow this," Mr Pugh said.
"I seem to recall the provision of these services was something they required from NPWS last time there was a restructure.
"Now it seems like they're letting them slip out the back door.
"It takes decades to build the experience in these positions and once it's gone, it's going to be a massive concern."
But Mr Gulaptis disputed the union's claims, describing them as a "dishonest scare campaign".
"There are almost too many union untruths to correct but the claims of massive staff cuts and abandoning services in the Clarence need to be debunked," Mr Gulaptis said.
"In the present structure, there are 37 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees in the Clarence Valley and the future structure is also designed to deliver 37 FTE jobs. No office or depot will be closed."
"Far from having a negative impact on the Clarence Valley, the changes will improve services over time."
"The restructure is a cost-neutral exercise, not designed to deliver savings, but to reinvest funds previously expended on executive and management layers into increasing the number of field-based roles."
"Our National Parks are to be enjoyed by the public of NSW and it's sad and disappointing when the PSA Union overlooks this fact for political point scoring."
Clarence Valley Council has also bought into the dispute, with the council resolving to amend a mayoral minute to support local workers.
Mayor Jim Simmons put up a mayoral minute for Tuesday's meeting opposing the amalgamation plan.
Cr Simmons said he had received a late email from the NPWS director disputing the number of job losses.
Cr Greg Clancy said while there would be job losses, the key issues was the downgrading of positions in the Clarence Valley.
"The loss of specialist technical positions in the Clarence Valley is going to be significant," he said.
Cr Karen Toms said she did not understand the government claims the amalgamation would be "cost neutral".
"I've heard a figure of $121million in savings, so if that's right I don't think you can say that's cost neutral," she said.
Cr Toms said she was disappointed with the local member.
"I'm upset with our local member that he's not tried hard to stand up for Grafton and the wider Clarence Valley," she said.
She called on all councillors to join staff at the demonstration to support their claims.