Newcastle City Council garbage collectors close to striking

NEWCASTLE garbage collectors almost went on strike this week after council pays were a day late for the third time in recent months, their union has confirmed.
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The United Services Union confirmed the pay unrest after a NSW Industrial Relations Commission report-back on Friday.

Union industrial officer Noel Martin said Newcastle City Council’s pay-day had changed in a new system of fortnightly, rather than weekly, pay.

Mr Martin said some employees had been hit with penalties by their banks when there were insufficient funds in their accounts for automatic deductions on mortgage repayments and the like.

The council confirmed the delays but said that ‘‘in every case the issues have been resolved within 24hours’’.

Mr Martin said the pay delays added to already substantial morale problems and he could not rule out immediate industrial action should another delay occur.

Mr Martin said the dispute in the industrial commission began when the council refused to allow a union delegate to be present during a staff disciplinary matter.

Mr Martin said the union was still waiting for an assurance that such a thing would not happen again.

The council’s human resources manger, Graeme Holland, said the union had not responded to his correspondence on the matter.

Mr Martin said the council talked about ‘‘wanting a relationship’’ with the union but had twice ignored the industrial commission’s recommendations – the only times he could recall any council doing so in 18years representing the union.

Summing up, Deputy President Rod Harrison said that rather than ‘‘bickering over who should be at a meeting’’, it would be better if the council and the union addressed ‘‘the real issues of productivity, efficiency and job security’’.

The parties are set to meet on Thursday with a return to the commision on Monday, February 16.

The council told the Newcastle Herald it gave ‘‘due consideration to all’’ the commission’s recommendations.

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Rhys Smith rises to the occasion for Merewether at Surfest

STRONG PERFORMER: James McMorland competes in the Surfest Tag Team Challenge at Stockton beach for Frenchmans. Picture: Ryan OslandTHE steadying influence of Rhys Smith helped Merewether stay in the mix for a quarter-final berth after day one of the Surfest Tag Team Challenge at Stockton beach.
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Smith stepped into the breach after a string of withdrawals and was among Merewether’s best on Friday as they finished second in rounds one and two.

Jesse and Marc Adam as well as youngsters Morgan Cibilic and Zephyr Le Rougetel make up the Merewether side, which is missing stars Ryan Callinan, Craig Anderson and Jake Sylvester. Young guns Jackson Baker and Luke Hamilton are competing at the Australian Open of Surfing pro junior at Manly this weekend.

The two second placings left Merewether in sixth place overall with two more rounds remaining on Saturday. The top eight then progress to the the finals on Sunday.

North Avalon defeated Merewether in round one 57.63 to 36.71 and North Shelly prevailed over the local powerhouse 45.3 to 36.51 in the second.

North Shelly, North Avalon and North Narrabeen Black won both of their four-team rounds to be 20 points and lead the 16-team field after the opening day.

North Narrabeen White and Norah Head were on 16 points after a win and a second.

North Narrabeen Black were the standout team on Friday, racking up 123.04 in wave scores across the two rounds.

Chris Enever was a leading light for North Narrabeen Black, which included Kai Warner, former world tour surfer Brett Warner’s son.

James McMorland was a strong performer for Frenchmans, who are seemingly out of contention for a quarter-finals berth after securing 7.5 points from a second and fourth on Friday. McMorland clinched back-to-back Surfest wildcard trials victories last Sunday at Birubi Beach to book his place in the six-star Mark Richards Pro on February 16 at Merewether.

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Uni opt to ground Aaron Bird for T20 final

FULL STRIDE: Aaron Bird in action for NSW in 2006. Picture: Getty ImagesUNIVERSITY have resisted the temptation to parachute former NSW fast bowler Aaron Bird into their side for the Newcastle district cricket Twenty20 final on Sunday at No.1 Sportsground against Merewether.
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Bird has not played a game for Uni but was on their team sheet for their washed out T20 game on January 18 against Toronto Workers.

Newcastle District Cricket Association’s grade administrator, Alan Nichols, confirmed Bird was eligible to play. However, Uni skipper and Bird’s younger brother, Luke Bird, said the club had decided against playing the 31-year-old.

‘‘There were talks and we were thinking about it, but he hasn’t played a game for us and we have blokes who have played and trained week in week out, and I think it would have been a little unfair to sit them out for the final,’’ Luke Bird said.

Uni will field a formidable bowling line-up, even without the six-game Sheffield Shield veteran.

New Newcastle representative bowler Tim Prescott (38 wickets at 9.55) and Grant Stewart (26 at 14.69) are among the in-form seamers of the competition and Luke Bird has recaptured his top pace.

‘‘He’s deserved it. He’s been one of the form bowlers of the whole comp, the stats tell you that,’’ Bird said of Prescott.

‘‘With the new ball he can move it both ways, so he’s pretty lethal.’’

In last year’s T20 final Hamish Bartlett made 61 not out to carry Merewether to victory over Uni with three balls to go.

It was a match many believed Uni should have won, if not for some wayward bowling from the 15th to 17th overs that leaked 46 runs.

‘‘We’ve taken a lot out of that game last year and if you look at our team this year, compared to last year, we’ve improved with the addition of some new players,’’ Bird said.

‘‘I think we can take a lot of confidence out of that knowing we got so close last year.

‘‘We’re much more balanced and I think we can go that step further and win it.’’

Merewether will be without their own first-class fast bowler, Mark Cameron, but University of NSW left-arm quick Dan Morton will be available.

Left-arm orthodox spinner Tim O’Neill is in doubt due to a back injury.

Merewether have won the past three T20 finals and will again start firm favourites.

A victory would secure their second trophy of the summer, after they defeated Hamilton-Wickham in the SCG Country Cup final three weeks ago.

‘‘As the boys have always said, we play to win and you always play to win trophies,’’ Merewether vice-captain Troy Goodwin said. ‘‘For the second time this year we get another crack at it, we’ll be going hard at it, that’s for sure.’’

Meanwhile, the NSW government’s Home Ground Tour rolls into Newcastle this weekend to continue the build-up to the start of the World Cup next Saturday.

Smith Park at Hamilton North will host the tour on Saturday.

The tour includes cricket clinics, World Cup memorabilia from the Bradman Museum and other activities.

The tour moves to Foreshore Park on Sunday where former Australian bowler Nathan Bracken will attend.

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Aaron Townsend won’t play safe

FULL TILT: Aaron Townsend.CHARLESTOWN’S Aaron Townsend has vowed to maintain an aggressive approach at the Victorian Open after he rocketed into fourth position with an eight-under 64 at Barwon Heads on Friday.
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Townsend’s putting radar was switched on as he drained nine birdies in ideal scoring conditions to move to nine under.

The only time his putter failed him, on the 13th, it resulted in his sole bogey.

Amateur Andrew Schonewille leads at 11 under.

Townsend’s 64 in the morning equalled the course record, which was then bettered by Mitchell Brown’s 10-under 63.

‘‘It was good to take advantage of the conditions as the course was a little softer and the greens were most receptive,’’ Townsend said.

‘‘I drove the ball nicely and didn’t hit it overly close, but I found a lot of greens and made some nice putts.’’

The high scoring is expected to continue over the weekend and Townsend has no plans to play it safe.

‘‘Tomorrow is supposed to be hot with a northerly so the course will dry out and become fast,’’ he said.

‘‘It will all be about course management.

‘‘You won’t be able to be complacent, you have to keep making birdies.

‘‘Everyone knows that, so you’ve got to be aggressive, but conservative.’’

Toronto’s Callan O’Reilly could also challenge over the weekend after carding a flawless 66 to move to sixth place at 136, eight under par.

The second-year professional only booked his spot on Monday when he finished runner-up in the qualifier at Kooringal.

After a disappointing end to his rookie season as a professional, O’Reilly said he spent the Christmas break working hard on his mental approach.

‘‘It wasn’t the best end to the season last year and I’m just been trying to wrap my head around it all,’’ O’Reilly said.

‘‘It feels like it’s working, it’s just a better mental attitude at the moment.

‘‘It’s easier to be good mentally when you’re playing well.’’

Charlestown’s Jamie Hook (69-70) in 23rd at five under and the Vintage’s Edward Stedman (74-69) scraped inside the cut at one under.

The Hunter’s big guns Kurt Barnes (75-69) and Nathan Green (73-73) missed the cut.

Meanwhile, Charlestown’s Jake Higginbottom and Waratah’s Andrew Dodt are three shots off the pace at the Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur.

England’s Lee Westwood and Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell led after the first round.

The two Novocastrians carded three-under 69s.

Higginbottom was on fire early with birdies at the second, fifth, ninth and 12th before making bogey on 16.

Dodt shot a bogey-free round, making birdies at four, 11 and 17.

But it was the European big guns who lit up the course.

Westwood and McDowell both shot six-under 66.

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Fee Madigan finds restorative power of art

FLAME OF CREATIVITY: Fee Madigan busy working at her Art Mania Studio in Wallsend. Picture: Brock PerksFEELING burnt out after a demanding career in drug, alcohol and mental health rehabilitation, Fee Madigan turned to her lifelong love: art.
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“I had always been involved in art but had never made it full-time as my career before,” she said.

“For me, it was a saviour and helped me to get back to wellness.

“Without it, I don’t think I would have coped very well.”

Ms Madigan relocated to Newcastle from Alice Springs – where she participated in shaping the Volatile Substance Abuse Prevention Act – in 2008 and soon established Art Mania Studio in Wallsend, which offers hands-on educational artistic programs for anyone aged five years old and upwards.

“Art allowed me to reflect and look at things in a different way and express how I felt,” she said.

“Getting back into it gave me a sense of purpose – and it can also help people facing anxiety or mild depression.

“We call it art as therapy, but not in a clinical sense, where people want to learn stuff but also want a safe environment to just sit and be part of a group and not really participate outwardly if they are struggling with a life situation.”

From her studio, Ms Madigan has expanded her repertoire beyond painting to also include leadlighting, mosaics, hebel carving, freeform knitting and crochet, and shares her skills in these areas through WEA Hunter.

She will focus on glass fusing in her first half-day workshop for the year on Saturday, showing participants how to select, cut and layer coloured glass before it is fired in a kiln to create items including bowls and jewellery.

“Its easy, accessible and once you get the knowledge it’s a learned technique,” she said.

“People say ‘I haven’t got a creative bone in my body’, but I ask them how they are able to drive and they say ‘I learned’.

Ms Madigan’s fused and kiln-fired glassworks are on show to February 8 in her exhibition, Glass Awakenings, at Art Systems Wickham, alongside works by Roger McFarlane, Don Stewart and Luka Basorios.

It is open Friday to Sunday, 11am to 5pm.

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