Mayor Denise Knight says the call for a pay cut was a
Mayor Denise Knight says the call for a pay cut was a "light bulb moment" from the Deputy Mayor. She is pictured here with General Manager Steve McGrath.

UPDATE: Mayor responds to calls for staff pay cut

UPDATE: Mayor Denise Knight has responded to a suggestion from Deputy Mayor Tegan Swan that senior Council staff should take a pay cut in the face of Covid-19.

"Cr Swan bought this up as a light bulb moment in the Council meeting and if she chooses to make it formal there is a formal process to go through.  She has been a Councillor long enough to know that," Cr Knight said.

"She can sit down with the general manager and air her concerns."

Cr Knight has pointed out there are two arms of Council - one is the elected members and the other is operations - and any decision on a pay cut would be operational.

"So it would be up to the general manager who is in charge of operational matters and Councillor Swan knows that and she should go and speak to him."

Cr Knight says she has not given the matter of voluntary pay cuts by senior staff much thought.

"I've got other got things to do in my role as an elected councillor.  I don't know what other Councils are doing (in relation to voluntary pay cuts) but if Cr Swan has done her homework on it, she could throw that information into the mix."

YESTERDAY:

WITH senior executives and politicians across the globe taking pay cuts in the face of Covid-19, Deputy Mayor Tegan Swan has asked if senior Council staff could do the same.

Cr Swan raised the matter at last week's Coffs Harbour City Council meeting and was hoping the matter would be listed as a 'question on notice'.

When asked why it wasn't listed in the minutes Cr Swan said she would look into it.

"I will follow it up internally and see why it wasn't included as a question on notice. It just means the question is answered publicly," Cr Swan said.

"It's not necessarily debated by Councillors but they might get back to us internally and provide a response or it goes into the next minutes to be considered."

She recognises that senior staff members like General Manager Steve McGrath do not have the reassurance of permanent contracts, but says any pay cut would be temporary to help ride out the economic impacts of Covid-19.

Council's 2018/2019 annual report lists the remuneration package for the General Manager at $360,761.00 (as of June 30, 2019).

Coffs Harbour City Council General Manager Steve McGrath.
Coffs Harbour City Council General Manager Steve McGrath.

The combined package for Council's three senior staff positions for the period ending June 30, 2019 is $793,350.

These are Andrew Beswick, ​Director Business Services; Chris Chapman, ​Director Sustainable Communities; and Mick Raby, Director Sustainable Infrastructure.

 

Senior staff Mick Raby, Chris Champan and Andrew Beswick (in the foreground) on hand at a recent Coffs Harbour City Council meeting.
Senior staff Mick Raby, Chris Champan and Andrew Beswick (in the foreground) on hand at a recent Coffs Harbour City Council meeting.

"They get paid the big bucks because they have a lot of responsibility but the opposite is true for the mayor and councillors when we have all the responsibility," Cr Swan said.

"We're paid absolutely dismally - it's a love job for us.

"I was just asking them to consider it. It's no reflection on the job they do but more a way for us to show we're willing to make sacrifices just like the community is doing."

In the private and public sector, both in Australia and overseas, voluntary pay cuts are big seen as just another tool to help ride out the economic impacts of the pandemic.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her government ministers will take 20 per cent pay cuts, effective for six months.

Meanwhile Cowper MP Pat Conaghan has expressed his support for the idea.

The base annual salary for federal backbenchers is more than $210,000, while cabinet ministers fetch around $360,000.

Mr Conaghan wants pay cuts for all public servants earning more than $120,000 a year.

"If you're a magistrate, if you're a judge, if you're a senior bureaucrat, then I think the writing's on the wall. It would be the right thing to do," he said late last month.

Senior executives at News Corp (the publisher of the Coffs Coast Advocate) have also taken significant pay cuts. Australasia chairman Michael Miller made the announcement in an email to staff just over a month ago.

Coffs Harbour City Council was approached for comment in relation to Cr Swan's suggestion.

"Councillor Swan raised an idea, it was not a formal decision of Council related to the business paper, and as such not recorded in the minutes," a spokesperson said.

"Council is focused on keeping all staff actively and gainfully employed. Council's leaders are firmly focused and working hard to ensure that this is achieved for our workforce and to continue to provide services to the community at this challenging time."



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