Wollongong councillor Bede Crasnich has moved to clarify remarks made about council employees in Friday’s Illawarra Mercury, saying he was sorry if workers were offended.
On Wednesday, Cr Crasnich said residents had approached him concerned about the amount of work council employees were doing.
‘‘We talk about efficiency, but I have seen all too often driving through town or in the northern suburbs, you have seven council workers doing maintenance or construction and two are on their mobiles, or having a cigarette and one is working,’’ he said at the time.
The comments provoked outrage, with union officials calling on Cr Crasnich to apologise.
Yesterday, Cr Crasnich said he stood by the remarks but he was sorry if he had ‘‘made people feel as though they don’t work hard for a living’’.
‘‘I was not talking about all council staff or everyone in that building, I was talking about sections of our workforce which can be made more efficient,’’ he said.
‘‘I apologise to anyone who has taken that the wrong way but I have ratepayers to look out for.’’
Cr Crasnich renewed his attack on the United Services Union, telling it to ‘‘calm down’’.
‘‘This is Australia, not North Korea, I’m allowed to have opinions they may not agree with,’’ he said.
Cr Crasnich said there was an argument for leasing some Wollongong City Council assets to private companies and outsourcing work in order to save money.
United Services Union southern region organiser Paul Wesley said workers had been upset by Cr Crasnich’s comments.
‘‘I can assure Cr Crasnich that every one of them is passionate about their job,’’ Mr Wesley said.
‘‘Resorting to offensive, outdated stereotypes about ‘lazy council workers’ isn’t the kind of behaviour an elected councillor should be engaging in.’’
Meantime, Ian Robertson, the secretary of the union representing local government health, building and planning professionals, launched an attack on Cr Michelle Blicavs.
Yesterday, Cr Blicavs was reported calling for council employees to work 38 hours a week instead of the 35 specified in the council’s enterprise agreement.
Mr Robertson accused Cr Blicavs of ‘‘putting the boot into’’ council employees.
‘‘Thirty-five hours a week is the standard working week in the public sector,’’ he said.
However, Cr Blicavs said council employees’ enterprise agreement “offered significantly better conditions than other councils”.
“The state award is being reviewed and I’m suggesting the next agreement, we consider lining up with that award,” she said.