Council employees have voted by a narrow margin to reject an enterprise bargaining agreement proposed by the City of Ballarat.
There were 310 votes in favour of the agreement with 327 against - or a margin of 51 per cent to 49 per cent.
The Australian Services Union (ASU) had urged its members to vote against the agreement, with voting closing at the end of last week.
ASU branch secretary Lisa Darmanin said the vote showed that managers at the council needed to offer a better deal.
"The ASU bargaining team is ready to keep negotiating on the next enterprise agreement," she said in an emailed statement.
"We are looking forward to City of Ballarat management returning to the negotiating table so we can work out an agreement that is acceptable to workers at the City."
Among the issues with the current agreement cited by ASU cited were a "terrible classification review policy", "stagnant wage growth". "recognition of long-standing employees", "unfair discipline and misconduct processes", "failures around thermal comfort."
The ASU also referred to "unresolved issues in Leisure, Waste, Early Childhood and in the Phoenix Centre", but did not give any specific details.
A City of Ballarat statement said the vote showed staff understood the need to balance wage growth with job security and "maintaining services in a rate-capped environment."
"Given the option voted on was the best and most balanced offer management could provide at this point, it's prudent to take the opportunity to find out more from City of Ballarat employees," City of Ballarat CEO, Justine Linley said.
She said the enterprise bargaining committee would re-commence meetings and consult with staff to understand which areas of the proposal they did not agree with.
The City of Ballarat said it would set up information sessions and a survey to capture thoughts and ideas to assist in the finalisation of the agreement.
The previous enterprise agreement was finalised in 2017, with a nominal expiry date of end of September this year.
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