Union lashes council over pay talks

Unionised Hamilton City Council staff have slammed chief executive Barry Harris after backing away from strikes over $12,000 of pay demands, but the council boss is refusing to be drawn on the debate.

In a strongly worded letter to Mr Harris, the Public Service Association's 160 council workers have accused him of a belligerent approach to bargaining, and misleading the public over the cost of 1 per cent pay hikes they want.

After PSA members last week voted strongly for industrial action, Mr Harris told the council in a public statement he wouldn't accept unilateral pay hikes.

In the latest pay review, 24 PSA members earning an average $52,400 wage received no pay increase. The 1 per cent mandatory increase sought by the union, but rejected by Mr Harris, would therefore have cost just $12,576.

The union has now voted against industrial action but the parties are likely to be back at the bargaining table in six months, and arguing the same issue.

Senior councillor Dave Macpherson, who has already sided publicly with the union members over the dispute, said the amount sought by the staff was "a pittance" and did not look good when Mr Harris had accepted a $7200 pay hike this year.

"It's a pittance when you compare it to the cost of living increases for the families of the staff involved, and I think council has a duty to be a good employer. To refuse to give staff a cost of living increase means we're not."

Mr Harris has declined to respond to the union remarks. "We have an agreement with the PSA to make no comments to the media on matters under discussion. The PSA are party to this agreement," he said in a statement from his office.

Waikato Times