Yoga and fine dining: union fury at EPA ‘love-in’

By , 25/04/2020 19:37

Merewether Surfhouse Beach yoga, an afternoon at Merewether Surfhouse, fine dining at Rustica before tucking into bed atthe Novotel: it reads like the itinerary for an idyllic getaway alongNewcastle’s gloriouscoastline.

But – according to unions – itwas actually the agenda for a managers’ conference held by the NSWEnvironmentProtection Authority this week. For unions, it has raisedeyebrows at a time when management have been squabbling overlaundry allowances and threatening to cut jobs.

Another source slammed the event – held on Wednesday and Thursday – as a “managers’ love-in”.

Industrial Manager with the Public Service Association Nathan Bradshaw said the “real kicker” was that the EPA hadhired the Surfhouse when it had conference rooms available for free in its offices.

“If they felt the need to get away from the office, across the road is the Newcastle Workers’ Club,” he said.

“I dare say they’re a hell of a lot cheaper …they even give free conference rooms to the EPA occasionally.”

According to its website, the Merewether Surfhouse charges $350for its southernconference area, $500 for its northernarea, or $850 for both. Meals and breaks cost between$34.50 and $75per attendee,with the premium package covering two breaks and a two-course meal.

A standard room at theNovotel on a weeknight in April would cost about $271, searches using corporate rates showed.

The spend has rubbed salt in the wound for unions, whichsaymanagement is refusingto pay a $4 a week laundry allowance.

“They were arguing if they had to pay the allowance they would have to lose staff,” Mr Bradshawsaid.

The union claims management has also been requiring EPA officers to drive back to Sydney from Newcastle after a 12or 13-hour shift, rather than paying an overnight allowance.

“The EPA are crying that they don’t have any money …they’re penny pinching on the one hand, but organising extravagance for their management,” Mr Bradshaw said.

When theHeraldsent questions to the EPA, it confirmed anevent took place for “key regional staff” but would not release details.

Port Stephens MP Kate Washington attacked it as the “height of indecency”.

“The residents of Williamtown aren’t being put up at the Novotel,” she said. “Maybe that’s the solution”.

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