AT THE FACE: The council’s administration building will have fewer staff.
AT THE FACE: The council’s administration building will have fewer staff. Claudia Baxter

City council to cut staff due to downturn in development

IPSWICH City Council says it is being forced to cut staff from its infrastructure services department due to a downturn in development.

The council is calling for voluntary redundancies to reduce the number of staff in the department by 20 to 25 to save $2.5 million in wages.

The QT was alerted by a man who works in the department that is responsible for the city's capital works program.

"A department of 50 to 55 people is being reduced by 20 to 25 with strong rumours of more to come in other departments," the man, who didn't want his name published, said.

"Voluntary redundancies are being offered first, but forced redundancies will follow if there are not enough volunteers.

"People are devastated because a lot of them have worked here for 10, 15, 20, up to 25 years. It's just knocked the stuffing out of the place."

A document the man provided to the QT highlights a capital works growth peak of 5.86% in 2007 to 2008 compared to 1.88% for 2011 to 2012.

That led to revised forecasts for the next three years aimed at slowly improving the growth rate.

The council chief executive, Carl Wulff, said the infrastructure services department was the only one that needed staff cuts.

"We ran quite an aggressive capital works program over the past five years due to a high growth rate. By necessity, we have a smaller capital works program in the next three years. We're probably coming back to a more sustainable capital works program," Mr Wulff said.

"We've got more people in that area than we can supply work for. We've got a number of options and one of them is voluntary redundancies.

"Unfortunately the growth profile, while relatively strong, isn't as strong as it was. To keep the workforce we had at 6% growth we need 6% growth and we can't manufacture that. It is always tough to have to make this kind of decision."

Jennifer Thomas, acting secretary of the Queensland Services Union, said she understood the council's position but sympathised with staff. "They have been trying to deal with the reduction by natural attrition but now growth will be halved by 2016 they have been upfront about having to cut costs," Ms Thomas said.

"We understand the facts but it's going to be a big hit in one go. They're basically halving the department.

"We'll look at talking to affected staff next Thursday.

Mayor Paul Pisasale said it was a difficult situation for the staff and the council.

"For me as mayor and all the councillors, to see one member of staff lost is terrible," he said.

"We had to put more staff on because of the floods and the development industry dropped and now it's picking up again.

"We've got a responsibility to the staff but we also have a responsibility to the ratepayers of Ipswich.

"We're just taking a softly softly approach. Nothing's being forced.

"We'll be helping those who want to take voluntary redundancies to get work elsewhere. I'd vouch for any people in that department.

"There are sectors that are losing hundreds of staff because of the downturn in the development industry. We're lucky we're so strong in development. Some areas' growth has gone into minus."

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