From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

SackWatch #1: Rio Tinto. We’re hearing Rio Tinto, which has already announced plans for sweeping cost-cutting, is slashing its Melbourne office from 250 staff down to 50 through redundancies. “So much for the company’s commitment to the Australian government to maintain head office functions in Melbourne and London and not treat Australia as a branch office when Rio Tinto merged with CRA,” a mining mole says.

In a statement to Crikey, Rio Tinto did not comment on those numbers but said it was “facing the challenge of increasing costs”.

“We are actively seeking ways to tackle this. This includes a programme of reductions in service and support costs across the organisation, which have been rising sharply in recent times,” the statement said.

Crikey understands that while the Melbourne office is set to significantly shrink, the cuts might not be as deep as our mole suggests, with some staff likely to relocate from Melbourne to Rio’s offices in Brisbane and Perth. Know more? Let us know.

SackWatch #2: News. We hear News Limited’s library staff have been shown the door, with the archiving of published material being shunted to Sydney. And our tipster asks a good question — with all the discussion around cuts at News and Fairfax metro, what’s happening at Rural Press’ bush papers?

Local government escapes the knife? This week Crikey detailed the sweeping job losses seen across the federal and state public service in recent times. What about local governments?

Crikey asked Graham Sansom, Director of the Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government, whether there was a similar story to tell. “I’m not aware of any horror stories of councils closing doors or cutting staff … all figures suggest a stable or increasing workforce,” he said.

But this month the Brisbane Times reported council debt in Queensland is set to surge to $23 billion by 2031, forcing councils to find savings in their organisational structures. Graeme Kelly, general secretary of the NSW-based United Services Union, speculates jobs would be lost in NSW under the state’s “Destination 2036” action plan.

“We don’t know how far the Destination 2036 plan will go. We are living in a state of uncertainty at the moment … but proposed boundary changes and forced amalgamations would lead to job losses,” Kelly said.

So that’s what the experts are telling us. Have you got a story from the coalface — are any jobs being cut at the local government level? Keep us in the loop.

Qld public service. We’ve heard reports that more than 3000 staff will be shed from transport and roads as the Newman government cuts costs — “and very senior officers will not escape the axe”, a source says. So who’s in the firing line?

Nurses curse? Rumours are circulating that cost-cutting by the Queensland government means that nurses will no longer be able to access subsidised innoculations.

“The take-home message: get an infection from a patient? Well, if you have not paid for your own vaccine, tough,” a Crikey insider says.

We asked Queensland Health about the rumour; they said as of July 1, staff vaccinations had become “the responsibility of districts” and not head office, and advised us to ask the districts. Maybe a nurse can clear up this issue for us — get in touch.

*Do you know more? Send your tips to [email protected] or use our guaranteed-anonymous form

Peter Fray

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