What do we do?

We protect things our members have as conditions of their employment and we try to improve them.

We take a broad approach to our responsibilities to members and give advice and assistance on professional issues as well as the more predictable industrial and workplace issues. We understand what members do at work and that understanding allows us to take a holistic approach. Our understanding of what our members do is thorough and detailed and we boast an unrivalled corporate memory in the industry. 

depa’s Secretary Ian Robertson has worked for the union since May 1984 and is across all of the important, interesting or entertaining things that happen in the industry since that time. If he was a part of it, he knew about it anything doesn't know about it, it can't have been such a big deal. If you want advice about the 1993 Act or the 1995 Amendment Act, or the 1996 amendments to the EP&A Act and the introduction of private certifiers or the establishment of the BPB and the subsequent accreditation of council employees, it makes sense to ask someone who negotiated it - or fought against it.

With the two other unions and Local Government NSW, we negotiate the Local Government (State) Award with a focus on the interests of our members in their specialist professions, enterprise agreements councils covered by the State Award as well as councils like Wollongong that have historically had their own separate awards or agreements.

We talk to the Government about things that we think should change in the Local Government Act, the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, the Building Professionals Act and the Industrial Relations Act. Or things that they might want to change but which we want to see remain unchanged.

On a pro rata basis, we filed more disputes in the Industrial Relations Commission than any other union. These disputes can be broad in scope or specific and personal.

We run broad disputes across many councils with the support of the other two unions like the 2000 dispute with 75 councils about salary systems (which we liked to call depa Vs The Rest of the World) and with 130 councils in 2009 about changes to superannuation and how it affected managers/directors on TRPs when some councils wanted to reduce take-home pay.

In 2011, again with the support of the other unions, we filed the dispute to support the implementation of Industry Guidelines developed jointly by the three unions and Local Government NSW on alcohol and other drug policies (which discouraged random testing and which referred saliva to be more intrusive urine testing) and a dispute which ran in parallel against the Hunter Councils frothing at the mouth about implementing random urine testing so that they would know what employees had been up to when not at work.

One of our obsessions over the years has been the introduction of term contracts. Originally thought to be a good idea by the Town Clerks Society (the old name for the Local Government Managers Association) in the late 1980s because self-important town clerks at the time wanted to elevate themselves above everyone else in the industry, term contracts were a way of dislocating career paths, creating artificial barriers and hurdles in what should be a seamless career path, getting rid of employees who were doing a good job and even worse.

We fought against the introduction of term contracts in the 1993 Local Government Act and when this Act was finalised in a way that allowed councils to declare people on over $45,000 a year as Senior Staff and outside the awards, we are responsible for the 1995 In Act that introduced a minimum salary level of SES Level 1 to ensure that only top level of management would be removed from protection under the Award.

We disputed contracts of councils individually, and when unsuccessful in the 1995 Award negotiations to have restrictions on term contracts introduced we were successful in having these restrictions introduced in 1998. In 2002 we stopped Gosford introducing contracts as low as the entry-level three and ensure that the contracts which were implemented at managerial levels required a further contract if the employee's performance had been satisfactory. The effective banning of term contracts in the 2010 Award is the final conclusion to this historic campaign.

We act for members to contest:

  • changes to leaseback practices and policies
  • removal of variable working day systems or flexible working hour systems
  • unreasonable rejection of applications for leave
  • unreasonable imposition of forcing employees to take leave
  • access to flexible work or part-time work to properly discharge parental and family responsibilities
  • return to normal hours when those parental and family responsibilities change
  • bullying or harassment at work
  • unsafe or unpleasant working conditions
  • unfair treatment in performance reviews and behavioural management
  • the misuse of the Consultative Committee by management
  • unreasonable management of sick leave

but we like to think that we don't just react to the short-sightedness, penny-pinching, meanness and vindictiveness common in the industry.  We have a proactive and progressive approach which assumes that it is possible to build satisfying and well-paid work (nearly) everywhere.

And just to demonstrate that our role even extends well beyond life at work, we were involved in the separation of Local Government Super from State Super and First State Super in July 1993 and have been active and involved on the Board of the Scheme since that time. This allows us to work hard to protect and improve retirement income of members after local government and, because our role has meant that Local Government Super is the leading superannuation fund in Australia with its commitment to sustainable and responsible investment, we do this with minimal damage to other people and the planet.

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