What price do we pay : Council throws Garbos out with the rubbish

It might seem a small thing. A single agenda item in the Council meeting minutes that says Council has awarded the contract for domestic garbage and litter bin collection to a "preferred tenderer". In addition to the domestic kerbside collection, the Waste Collection Contract also includes the servicing of the community recycling sites, the household hard waste collection, and the transfer of waste from Moruya Transfer Station. The proposed contract term is 7 years with an option for an extension of up to 3 years The minutes say that the decision was "subject to undertaking financial assessment". The staff report says, under FINANCIAL, "Selection of the preferred tenderer will provide best value provision of waste services for the Eurobodalla, having considered both cost and non-cost criteria.

What is best value provision? The staff recommendation is based around the financial criteria of price for The Waste Collection Contract and price for the Litter Bin Collection Contract. After that came: Relevant experience and track record,  Commitment to reducing litter and illegal dumping,  Company structure and resources,  Environmental Performance and Emissions Standards of Fleet,  OWH&S. Council staff, removing themselves from any hint of bias, told the Councillors in their report that the determinations were made by Tender Evaluation Panel (TEP) including an independent waste specialist evaluated tenders in accordance with the Tender Evaluation Plan. A probity auditor also supervised the evaluation process. The Tender Evaluation Panel would have looked at price. But did they look beyond that at the bigger picture. Did they advise the councillors of the impact of any decision to not grant the current contractor, Suez, with the tender, and instead select Cleanaway? During discussion the issue of drivers rates was mentioned by Councillor McGinlay following a presentation early that day during Public Forum by Ryan Smith, Transport Workers Union. Mr Smith, in his address to Council said: During the last few months, I have been in close contact with the waste workers in the Eurobodalla Shire Council and I have taken some concern in what could be happening moving forward in their field of expertise in the not so distant future. I think it is safe to say the councillors and other directors of council are aware that the current contract has nearly expired and a tender has gone out for a 7-year contract with an optional 3 years beginning on the 30th of September 2022. What I would like to discuss today are the current garbage workers rates of pay and their conditions and what happens to these current rights moving forward collectively. Before the tender went out to the public, the TWU and Jack Loo (a current garbage worker) spoke with Lindsay Usher in an attempt to highlight why it was important to attach the current rates of pay and working conditions to the upcoming tender as a requirement. This is something the TWU find to be extremely important and it is something that the Shoalhaven Council, just up the road, attached to their tender not too long ago. Unfortunately, at that time Mr. Usher decided to deny that request. Now that the tender has gone out and the applicants have lodged their interest, it now comes down to the selection process. It is here, now, where I would like talk about why it is important that the current rates of pay and conditions are important and the Eurobodalla Shire Council select the right tender, which has these important requirements in mind. I understand the Council hold high consideration on price in attempt to look after the constituents best interests. However, what is concerning to me is the current working group who are also fine constituents of your local government area and the small things people forget when making these decisions. This current group of workers have worked through intense bush fires, damaging floods and an unpredictable pandemic. On top of that, this is the working group that are up first thing in the morning and the ones that are out in the wind and rain picking up bins that have blown over. These workers are still doing their jobs on public holidays while most of us sit and back and relax because garbage and waste does not stop. With all due respect to the current working group who work in the waste industry, this job is not the most glamourous and it isn’t necessarily a job that the youth of the country aspire to do when they grow up however it is an extremely important job and one that needs to be done. This current group go above and beyond for their local government area. Some may say it is their job to perform these duties but I know firsthand the lengths this group go to and how much pride they have in getting their work done. I think we can all agree here that the workers who are your fellow neighbours who reside alongside you in the Eurobodalla Shire Council have done an amazing job over the last 10 or so years and we cannot fault their performance thus far. However, we will potentially thank them by giving them a pay-cut and sending them potentially back to award rates by not having any provisions in the tender about the pay rates. In most cases when a tender changes hands the branding on the trucks will change, the logo on the shirts will alter but the workforce generally remain. This group will be expected by the company to perform the same job, the constituents will expect the same quality service and council will expect virtually no change to proceedings, however we will also expect the work group to continue on and have the same enthusiasm and motivation to their jobs and go the extra mile on potentially a lower rate of pay. This is a working group who live and pay rates in the Eurobodalla Shire Council, they stimulate the economy in the LGA and they contribute to local community as a whole. We are not asking that the rates of pay go up, and we are not asking for a pay-rise. We are asking that these hard working members of society do not go backwards. That is all; we are asking they do not go backwards. I do not think that this is a request that is asking too much of council and the local community. We just want the waste workers of the Eurobodalla Shire Council to do their jobs, feel valued go home to their families with a bit of dignity and continue to live in a community, which they call their own. I understand Shoalhaven is a different council but they saw the value in all these points and attached the rates or pay and current working conditions to their outgoing tender. In comparison, the local waste workers of Shoalhaven are paid $4.62 more per hour then what the current group of workers receive. Once again, we are not asking for parody or a pay rise, we just want this current work group to not go backwards. Alongside pay rates, the waste workers conditions are just important. The Enterprise Agreement this group of waste workers currently work under allow them to perform their work safely and allows them to know they are protected when it comes to the day to day challenges they face. A removal of these conditions or potentially a down ground in the EA may leave workers exposed. I completely understand that the tender has already gone out and the applicants have already lodged their interest. I understand that what has happened has happened and we cannot retrospectively change the stipulations however one thing we can do is think about what I have said today and think about the waste workers who live along side you and recommend what is right and recommend an outcome which looks after all aspects of the Eurobodalla Shire Council.

While the discussion might have been around award rates of pay for drivers the Councillors failed to take their discussions and considerations any further. Had they done so they might have discussed the fact that their decision would see co-mingled recycling product will be transferred out of the Eurobodalla. What this means is that your recycled bin gets emptied into the ruck, driven to a yard and then scooped up and dumped, unsorted, into a semi trailer to be shipped out of the shire to a sorting centre. presently all of the Bega recycled garbage is driven to Canberra to be sorted and dispatched. The decision to select a tenderer who will transfer sorting away from the Shire will see the end of the current Suez MRF (Material Recycling Facility) in Shelley Rd which will close when new operator takes over

The Councillors appear to have no interested in their discussion that the Moruya MRF sorts the recycling into glass, plastic, aluminium, cardboard and steel and that the closure will result in the immediate loss of nine direct jobs. The decision will also affect other local businesses who provide maintenance support and transport of the baled recycling ie plastic, cardboard,aluminium & steel.

While some of the current drivers might be offered positions with the new operator it is expected that they will be looking at up to 20% cut in wages, as Suez currently pays it's drivers above award rates.

The Agenda of the October 26th meeting stated the following: "It should be noted that all compliant tenders propose that recycled materials are transported outside of the shire for processing and handling. This means that this part of the service will no longer be undertaken in Moruya." Was it intentional in the report to omit that Suez did provide a proposal to continue operating the Material Recycling facility in Moruya? The fact that the Council report said "It should be noted that all compliant tenders propose that recycled materials are transported outside of the shire for processing and handling" means that the Councillors (an public) have NOT been given all the necessary information critical to a decision. Did the Eurobodalla Councillors know, when awarding the tender, that their decision would close the Moruya Material Recycling Facility resulting in the immediate loss of jobs. Did they know that their decision would see all recycled material dumped in a transit yard to then be loaded into semi-trailers and taken to a sorting station in Canberra or Sydney? What is clear is that there was no sign of any due consideration given to the Suez workers who went above and beyond when the fires were on and after the fires to ensure that waste services continued. Drivers had to open the gates of the Council Waste facilities themselves as there were no Council staff. This occurred at the Brou tip facility. Just how much did Council save we will never know. What we do know though it what their decision has come at a cost to the community, the workers involved and the environment as we add more carbon miles to our recycled rubbish, basically negating the intent of why we bother. Councillor Nathan goes out of her way to thank the Director of Planning for "the briefing paper along with everything else we need in order to make a decision for this tender". The question to be asked is "what weren't the councillors told?"