Humpty Dumpty inspires management at Mid Coast


Everyone knows Humpty Dumpty. A book by Lewis Carroll published in 1872 and a nursery rhyme, but rarely adopted by management in local government as a role model.

But at Mid Coast, the ████████, the GM and ████████ expert have done precisely that - embraced Humphrey’s famous philosophy about the use of language:

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

“The question is” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is”, said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master - that’s all”.

The three unions are involved in a long-running dispute with Mid Coast, not so much over what words do mean, but what they don’t. Everyone knows that the award requires councils to have a salary system, clause 7 Salary Systems of the Award has twelve subclauses about how it should operate and critically subclause (xii) provides that if a Council introduces a new salary system and you’ve got better progression and pay on your existing salary system, you can choose to remain on that.

That’s why ████████ think that if they can successfully argue that something which provides progression based on skills and performance is something qualitatively different to a salary system, then employees won’t have the protection of clause 7 (xii). This is a novel argument, the requirement to have salary systems at each Council is a compulsory obligation in the industry since 1992, but no one has been genius enough to try to disarm clause 7(xii) by arguing that the salary system they want to introduce, isn’t a salary system at all.

These are the same people who, after the issue was set down and a timetable established for arbitration, thought they could blithely go ahead and ignore the “status quo,’ tradition which is always protected in disputes and grievances on occasions like this, and start implementing what they want to do anyway, even though it’s going to be determined in November.

The LGEA dispute went back to the IRC and the geniuses learned an important lesson about what constitutes the status quo - it’s always the arrangements that existed prior to what the employer wants to do, or change, that caused the dispute.

This will run like a miserable weeping sore until it’s arbitrated in November - unless the ████████ starts taking advice from people who know what they’re doing.

OLG opposes our application to join and support them in NCAT

Apparently OLG believes that as the regulator, they don’t need any help, encouragement or assistance from anyone else when they actually want to get their fingers out and regulate the bad behaviour of Councillors.

We reported last month we’d filed an application to be joined as a party in proceedings known as Office of Local Government and former councillor Funnell. We did this because of the experience of our members having been treated by this person as a councillor in a variety of unacceptable ways – threats, abuse, defaming on facebook, you name it.. We have responsibilities protecting the health and safety of our members, and if this person were to return to public office at Wagga Wagga, then it would be back on again, as it was while he was a councillor, to go the staff.

We were provided with a very tight timeframe after our application to file submissions and material and relied upon material we had already filed in proceedings related to the former councillor, but primarily focused on the OLG’s insistence upon being an investigator and regulator hiding behind the curtains. A significant proportion of those documents contained evidence about the former councillor and his attitude to staff and what he believed he could and couldn’t do to them, and how he should or shouldn’t treat them.

While OLG has the power to bring these actions to NCAT, they don’t have the responsibility to protect employees that we do, and in any event, their procedures and processes are so confidential, no one ever really knows what they’re doing and, as the recent investigation into setting up a new framework for complaints against councillor behaviour showed, the average time for OLG to conduct an investigation, that does conclude with some kind of penalty, is over 400 days!

400 days! Hardly something that stands as good evidence of a highly competent and professional business.

Significantly, in their submissions opposing us becoming a party, they focused on an assertion that we wanted to re-agitate issues in our earlier applications, one of which remains waiting for a decision. This is not the case, we thought it clear in our original submissions but made that clear in our response. It’s both interesting and disappointing how readily they fall into their cover-up of the matters we were agitating in the other proceedings.

Too many Sir Humphreys involved here.


How are the Award negotiations going?

The Local Government State Award was made by consent of the parties in October 1991 to operate from 1992. It was a significant development in local government, removing separate awards, hundreds of classifications and establishing salary systems to allow employees to progress based on the acquisition and use of skills.

It has been varied by consent ever since - demonstrating that there is generally a common approach in the industry between the employers and the unions about the purpose of the Award, what is important in it and what may need to be changed. It’s an opportunity to fix things that might be unclear, or could be clearer as well as keeping up-to-date changed standards.

The unions rely on their executives and membership for feedback, LGNSW relies upon the expertise (sic) of a consultative group of general managers and HR people to provide input on the employer’s side. LGNSW never discloses the composition of the consultative group, and depa has never really wanted to know. If it’s reflective of the industry, it will comprise the good, the bad and the ugly, but we really don’t know how many of them are good. If any.

Having an historic consensus doesn’t mean it’s an easy process. It isn’t. The three unions and LGNSW as the employer party all have logs of claims for things they would like discussed during the negotiations. Sometimes, there are areas that can’t be agreed but the parties agree to have whichever member of the Commission is managing the process conduct an arbitration. But unlike other arbitrations where they hear submissions and evidence from the union or unions and the employers, we have agreed beforehand that we will accept whatever is recommended by the Commission, forfeiting the usual right to appeal.

This happened to allow the introduction of the requirement that councils pay the costs of accreditation for certifiers by the Building Professionals Board as it was at the time, and its successors, and when clause 9(i) was introduced in the 2020 Award.

We’ve had calls from members wondering what’s happening but it’s a process where agreements are made in principle as we work our way through the various logs, but all subject at the end to what is agreed on a pay increase. The higher the pay increase, the fewer the beneficial changes in the Award.

It is a work in progress, we meet every couple of weeks, we report to the IRC and have Commissioner Muir, on this occasion, try to bring the parties together on those areas where there are difficulties, all with the expectation that we will have a new Award made to operate from the first pay period after 1 July 2023.


Not sure who to vote for the Legislative Council on Saturday?

This is Elizabeth Farrelly. Over the years she has written opinion pieces in the Sydney Morning Herald bagging the introduction of private certification, shonky developments, destruction of heritage by tollways and infrastructure, design concepts, over-development and sensitive development, poor building standards, the importance of caring for the environment, climate change, and even on one occasion four years ago, a report on UnionsNSW’s success over the NSW Government on electoral regulation - something we were involved in as well.

This Saturday she is standing as an Independent in the Legislative Council.

There is significant common ground between her attitudes and the sorts of things that are important to us and our members, and would be good for us and our issues in that Chamber.

She spoke at our Annual Conference in 2019 when she was in the process of writing Killing Sydney: The Fight for a City’s Soul and was beyond fascinating. A fabulous, colourful communicator and someone who would be an asset in the Legislative Council on issues we are interested in. She could singlehandedly write a new Planning Act that focussed on people and communities and not developers!

We don’t normally recommend a political party or candidate. We have published articles with images of Dumb and Dumber, and Tweedledum and Tweedledee, but on this occasion, if you’re struggling to work out where you should put the numbers on Saturday, you could do a lot worse than casting a vote in her direction.

It’s group H, and if you’ve already got major parties you’d prefer to vote for, you can vote below the line and then pass your preference on!

SafeWork nails councillors behaving badly at Parramatta - and makes OLG irrelevant

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Parramatta councillors behaving badly

On 15 February 2023 SafeWork NSW served an Improvement Notice on City of Parramatta Council for contravening a provision of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, section 19, “for failing to ensure that psychosocial risks are being managed as far as reasonably practical”.

SafeWork found that existing controls such as the Workplace Bullying and Harassment Policy hadn’t been reviewed since 2017 and after interviewing witnesses, “several Workers and other relevant persons reported being subject and witness, to inappropriate workplace behaviour of Councillors towards other Councillors and Workers, predominantly during workshop meetings. The behaviours described included personal criticism, unwarranted accusations, raised voices, ridicule and intimidation which, reportedly, are not being appropriately addressed during the following Workshop meetings”.

Personal criticism, unwarranted accusations, raised voices, ridicule and intimidation sounds like fairly common behaviour from boofhead councillors (and sometimes also general managers) but the significance of the action is that the complaint was made in October 2022. SafeWork acted immediately and interviewed councillors and workers and four months later issued the Improvement Notice.

That’s action.

At last, a NSW Government authority has demonstrated to the Office of Local Government that investigations can be done quickly and penalties, in the form of an Improvement Notice in this instance, served.

SafeWork’s significant precedent at Parramatta puts a shot across the bow of councillors and others behaving badly. This is a stunningly attractive alternative to trying to do something with local government’s regulator.

Here is SafeWork’s Code of Practice for Managing Psychosocial Hazards at Work. This will be invaluable for members at many councils. We can’t wait.

Councillor Misconduct Framework Review


The release of the Review was briefly covered in the final issue last year. It provided some very compelling summer reading.

The findings of the Review of the Councillor Misconduct Framework found that the OLG in the eighteen months from 1 April 2020 to 30 September 2021, finalised 56 misconduct complaints, which did not proceed to investigation, in an average period of 75 days.

That’s 75 days to decide to do nothing.

And they finalised 16 misconduct investigations resulting in 11 councillor disciplinary orders and five performance improvement orders, with an average timeframe of 418 days.

That’s 418 days to do something. FFS, to be polite.

The OLG needs a rocket up them. We have characterised them regularly as sleeping on the job (as far back as the February 2011 issue), as sloth-like, or glacier-like in their movement and even as a black hole, from which nothing gets out but where everything gets sucked in.

We are still in NCAT on appeal to get our hands on the reasoning behind a clumsy error of fact by a former CEO of OLG, when he was being bombarded with those facts, in the investigation of a complaint against a councillor at Wagga Wagga - still being covered up by the OLG.

Here is our 2 February response to the recommendations of the Review. It includes a proposal that there be provided something equivalent to section 210 Freedom from victimisation from the Industrial Relations Act 1996, to protect employees who may have made code of conduct complaints.

We need someone, and a government, to do something to reconstruct OLG into a responsive and active regulator which can do things quickly and transparently. Like a bad hand at poker, sometimes it’s better to throw the lot in and start again.

Thank you Margaret, and welcome Raelene

Raelene Margaret web

Margaret Bayliss was our reassuring and capable Office Manager from 2014 until 2021. She came to us from AIBS, back as far as seventeen years ago when depa, the AIBS and AIEH all shared an office at Birkenhead Point. She was a gregarious and pleasant contact for members.

A replacement for a brief period resigned in November last year and Margaret was back to get us out of trouble and recruit a replacement (assisted by Mason Blackadder) who could be equally as gregarious, and multiskilled. And she has done a great job finding a replacement.

We’re doing a hand-over at the moment, including doing this issue of depaNews, so please welcome Raelene Dockrill, next time you email us or ring.

2022 depa awards for the Worst HR in Local Government

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How’s HR been this year?

It had its ups and downs, and this is our annual opportunity to skewer the worst of the mischievous, the hopeless, the dawdlers, tyrants, pretenders and miscreants. The biggest challenge in HR is to provide rewarding work, in an open, consultative and caring environment, where people feel secure. That makes our preoccupation this year trying to get the Office of Local Government and the Minister to provide some proper job security for senior staff. It has been tedious, slow and still continuing. It will be something for next year, and potentially a new government - if Labor can wrestle the high moral ground from Premier Perrottet on gambling.

The historic consensus to get rid of “no reason” sackings of senior staff is something that should have occurred already, OLG has analysed the submissions received from the “broader community” and of the 131 submissions, 85% supported the legislative changes necessary to provide proper protection for senior staff. It should be relatively easy, from that point shouldn’t it, but we are dealing with a largely immovable object.

Lake Macquarie got what they deserved when they were smashed by the Personal Injury Commission to resolve a workers compensation claim for a member of ours, bullied and treated poorly at every opportunity. A real karmic reward and a slap in the face for the façade of caring, responsible employment there. And in other karmic rewards, the GM who sacked our member unfairly at Narrabri, after a period on leave and an investigation by an Acting GM, resigned from the Council with an agreed exit. Yes, the bloke from Local Government Poseurs with the bloody apron, and still looking for a good job.

The pandemic continues, the strategy now is letting it rip, the cost of living is out of control, we work in an industry that because of rate pegging councils can argue that a CPI-based award increase would bankrupt most - reminding us of Paul Keating’s observation that working in the public sector provides “cosmic income” which, while it may be true, still doesn’t pay the bills.

Everything floods (at least we’re recognising climate change now), and keeps flooding, the dams are either empty or too full and that’s life. Hanrahan and Malcolm Fraser were clearly right.

While all that continues around us, there are four councils nominated for the prestigious title of the Worst HR in Local Government.

Central Coast

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It’s very conflicting to nominate Central Coast. It is no exaggeration to say that in terms of cooperation, professionalism and vision for the future, Central Coast, right from the beginning dealt with unprecedented daunting financial problems  - resulting in 350 jobs going, no money at all to pay anyone, but approached it in a completely cooperative way that meant the unions were on board all the time, consulted and briefed on the process, and understanding the dire nature of the Council’s finance.

In our August issue we applauded Central Coast going hard to establish best practice in health and wellbeing leave. When these provisions first came into the Award, most councils hid behind the rigidity of things like preventative medical appointments, and tried avoiding the exercise of discretion and setting precedents. The Hills and Liverpool broke free from those restrictions but progress in other councils has been slow.

So it was good to see Central Coast set up an entirely new approach advising every employee that the Council was open to a largely unrestricted and unspecified range of things they could do that would make them feel well. They gave examples like hiking, reading a book, mastering a creative task, joining a drumming circle, and anything that the individual employee would present as making them feel well.

We don’t give awards for good HR, but if we did, the HR people at Central Coast would get one for everything over the last four years. Except …

It’s hard to deliver cooperative and respectful HR processes if you find yourself with a bloke as GM who is an unchallenged expert with numbers and the money, and specialises in councils which are financially in deep trouble. David Farmer prides himself on being one-dimensional, not just on the money, but the embarrassingly old-fashioned and hostile concept that there is no better way of motivating staff than having them fearful of losing their job, pretty much all the time.

We’d engaged with him over his intention to flow the senior staff standard contract into the third level of management at a time when everyone else was thinking that the process was rotten, a corruption risk, and precarious employment for people who really needed to be comfortable giving advice without fear or favour.

He did say he would wear his Golden Turd with pride, (thinking it made sense to taunt us) but there are worse - and I hope I don’t offend you David, by saying that!

Notwithstanding all the good HR work by others, this was a last ditch attempt to take advantage of the hostile employment arrangements while still available, to make more people vulnerable in their jobs. The Central Coast gets a nomination.

Mid Coast

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Our first ever nomination of a Council where the GM is a member which, if it does nothing else, will reassure those people who think we get conflicted covering people who they work for and to whom they report. Clearly we can handle that potential conflict-of-interest.

It’s a truism that anyone who remains a member of ours when they get a job of director, or GM, usually carries with them the legacy of having been a member, and read and listened to the sorts of things that depa does, our core values and to remain a member, generally have confidence in our advice.

The former GM of Mid Coast Glenn Handford was a member of ours who reflected this truism. He had been the GM of Great Lakes and thought it made more financial sense to spend money on employees rather than the mechanisms councils can establish to manage their progression. He liked the concept of annual pay progression by not over-complicating the steps employees and HR would need to go through for progression. So, he set up a salary system with thirteen steps of 1.25%, which are available every year for employees who meet expectations. There was also a possibility for multiple steps for high performers.

It was embraced by the employees and the unions, was a good and affordable salary system that didn’t require a squad of people working out competencies to allow steps, or sophisticated and complex annual reviews. The money went to the employees.

This became the salary system after the merger of Great Lakes, Greater Taree and Gloucester merged, and once the GM had brought to fruition his vision for the staff to all operate out of one administrative building, on the outskirts of Taree, he resigned to do something off. In the second half of 2018, Adrian Panuccio, formerly from North Sydney Council, filled the position. All went well for a while until it was clear Adrian, despite his years of membership and having sought advice from depa over that time, thought it made sense to take advice from someone else.

████████ was the████████when another████████, Panuccio, arrived and then became the████████It seems████████had never worked in industrial relations, coming from a career working as an “Advisor” to a few ministers in the NSW Government, then as an████████for UrbanGrowth, the NSW Government’s developer.

████████ LinkedIn profile identifies his role as the President of the Liberal Club at Sydney University, but doesn’t include a relatively unsavoury experience working as a politician’s staffer in the Southern Highlands, and being sprung stacking branches: something reported in the Southern Highland News as “it looks like branch stacking has been the undoing of the hard right neophyte Liberal ████████…”

Being “hard right”, doesn’t mean he automatically gives bad advice, but when you think hard right Liberal in the concept of industrial relations, we think of people like Peter Reith, and his dogs and balaclavas in the wharf dispute, not at all the way local government likes to do business.

████████ was appointed████████at Mid Coast, despite no experience in the area, in 2019.

In late 2020 the Council decided to do something about Glenn Handford’s benign salary system. Originally presented as looking for a way of better of rewarding the highflyers, it was really the annual 1.25% which the Council wanted to remove because of the mounting costs, normally described as “incremental creep”, in arrangements like this.

This year they let the dogs out, proposing a new way of progressing in the salary system. It was going to be much, much more difficult but the comfort was the Award provides that if an employee has better progression or salary range in an existing salary system, then they can choose to remain on that system. That allowed a Council to introduce a worse system but most employees would elect to remain on the old system as incremental creepers.

The Council had a different view and a unique interpretation of what had remained a consensus for decades, uniformly across the industry, and had them arguing if they left the steps, making those steps more difficult, or impossible, didn’t allow the employees to remain where they were with their current entitlements.

Then it hit the fan. The LGEA filed a dispute (!) all the unions were involved and in every conciliation, the Council got worse and worse, spoiling for a fight. Commissioner Webster spent a full day at Taree trying to develop a compromise and at the end of the day a proposal was agreed to be put by the unions to their members. Without the protections of existing rights, depa didn’t bother voting because it was so unsatisfactory, but the other two unions had joint meetings and 483 employees voted against the proposal in what was a unanimous vote at a number of meetings.

Then the Council continued to go ahead with it, despite the dispute, and even though the practice is that the “status quo” should remain - meaning that you don’t roll it out until the dispute is resolved. It’s hard not to note the irony of a former President of Liberal Club at Sydney University not respecting the concept of status quo. Again, nearly a day of conciliation and the Council begrudgingly stopped rolling it out.

The Council wanted to arbitrate rather than reach agreement, the Commission issued a certificate of failed conciliation and a timetable was set to arbitrate. For this to happen, employees prepared statements of evidence about the impact of these changes on their expectation of moving through the salary system and were able to demonstrate losses in the order of $20,000 to $40,000 for some over the life of their career at the Council.

But conciliation continued with discussions recommended by the Commission. Having advice available from LGNSW and a barrister, an agreement was reached between the parties for a settlement that would provide the existing arrangement overlaid with possibilities of a more predictable access to double steps for people doing well and clearly accepting at clause 5 “the basis of the ratings will not include reference to the Local Government Capability Framework”.  

Now we were getting somewhere, depa members accepted it without quibbling (accepting that it was better to get moving on the trial and see how it went without worrying), but when joint meetings of the USU and LGEA members raised a number of questions “for clarification”, one of those being what will you use for ratings if you’re not using the dreaded capability framework, the Council seized on the opportunity that request provided and reneged on the agreement. Clearly they didn’t want to reach agreement with the unions, and having done so, broke the agreement.

Back before Commissioner Webster to have the Commission reinforce the importance of reaching agreement, and then honouring the agreement. That’s the basis upon which the Industrial Relations Commission operates, nothing precedes, a date is set in six weeks’ time with the Council to review its position and put proposals to the unions, which they didn’t do and then another full day of conciliation and Commissioner Webster hammers out a settlement to let the trial continue with the Capability Framework referenced, but the expectation progression would remain the same.

It was an uneasy truce after a day that became fairly aggressive and unpleasant.

Bloody hell, that’s what happens when the GM as a depa member decides it makes sense to take advice from someone else - even when LGNSW would have to have been telling them that the unions were right.

This was a dispute that had it all. A Council committed to arbitrating everything, at every opportunity, rather than reach agreement, and when they did reach agreement, they reneged on it and did everything they could to not agree to anything else.

This is an appalling way to manage HR anywhere but in a Council of 1100 employees, already with an enhanced proposal rejected unanimously by meetings of 480 union members, there was always going to be a collapse in morale because of the Council pursuing an aggressive approach when all we wanted to do was to get on with the trial to see how things went, based on the original agreement, and then review things in June next year. This them and us mentality when all we were trying to do was to build the trial until the end of June next year to see how things would work.

No other Council has been quite this aggressive, bloody-minded and contemptuous of reaching agreement with the unions representing their staff. Mid Coast has to be nominated.

Sutherland Shire

This will be Sutherland’s third successive nomination (winners in 2020) reflecting a sad consistency in the way they manage HR. Clearly not enough flushing out and getting in new blood at critical levels.

Two years later the CEO hasn’t recovered from her failure to properly manage the abusive language used by the Mayor to a compliance member of ours over breaches in the Mayor’s three cafes. While there is now an MoU between Sutherland and Georges River providing for each to do the other’s compliance and enforcement for businesses or properties owned by councillors, there is still not any recognition or apology from the Mayor, or the CEO, for failing to obtain one. All the CEO needed to do was what the previous CEO had done when the same boofhead abused another member of compliance staff - resolved it within 24-hours with an apology and a handshake from the boofhead.

The main problem last year was their desire to renegotiate the historic Core Enterprise Agreement but wanting lawyers to do it for them and the unions to sign a Good Faith Bargaining Principles agreement requiring a level of good behaviour that we know the CEO doesn’t enforce on her own councillors. Hypocrisy is such an unattractive quality.

Into 2022 and while the unions remained offended and refused to sign this document because it was unprecedented in the industry and if there were issues about breakdown in negotiation, access to the IRC can be almost instantaneous. But at the February meeting of the Consultative Committee, in  a report attributed to a Amanda Edwards, Manager People & Culture, Ms Edwards explained why it hadn’t proceeded, and the minutes of the following meeting adopted this as a true and accurate record:

Council reiterated that this was necessary as DEPA have submitted a letter which was unprofessional, disrespectful and insofar as bullying and harassment against the people who work for Council and therefore in this context it is entirely fair that the good faith bargaining agreement is put to Unions to ensure consistent expectations are set across all parties.

There had been no concern about any of our correspondence brought to our attention, there was no invitation for me to attend to respond and our new delegate attended his first meeting the following month to see this cowardly attack upon the Secretary of his own union in the minutes of the last meeting. Our members at Sutherland were supportive and well-aware of why we wouldn’t sign this bogus agreement and of anything we write to the Council and their Golden Turd nominations.

Our new delegate wondered what was going on, naturally enough, we pursued it in correspondence to the CEO and in a series of follow-ups to the CEO the Council was unable to provide “a letter” that came remotely close to the allegation of being “unprofessional, disrespectful and insofar as bullying and harassment. (sic)”

The Council can’t get away with this, they need either to put up, or shut up.

Clearly no such letter exists but the Council in a series of emails argued that it generally referred to all of our communication, even though the minutes recorded it as referring to “a letter”. If the Council conceded there wasn’t “a letter”, the minutes of the meeting should change and Ms Edwards should apologise. When asked to furnish examples of unacceptable communication they couldn’t, and when subsequently provided with the last fifteen communications between us which were are all remarkably civil and pleasant, notwithstanding the circumstances, still haven’t responded.

Who knows what Ms Edwards said, but the minutes record, as a true and accurate record, that she said those things, the Council can’t demonstrate that what she said was true, so it’s untrue. They get a reminder every now and again but the allegation is wrong. It’s a lie. It's a real pants on fire moment.

But we know what really gets up their nose, it’s that they manage HR in a way that keeps getting them nominated. If the nominations are unreasonable, or we’ve got it wrong, or we’ve misunderstood, we will remedy any inaccuracy in a way they refuse to do themselves with the February CC minutes. The simple advice to Sutherland is if you don’t want to be nominated for the Worst HR in Local Government, don’t do it so badly.

There are too many loose, erratic and subjective processes and we had to fix an issue for a member offered a market allowance to start, and then two and a half years later the Council argued that the market allowance was really a car allowance! We were able to make them back pay the member for the ten quarters - yes, two and a half years - and he retained his market allowance. Good call to get advice about it.

Another request to reviewing higher grade pay resulted in a review going back more than twelve months and reimbursing people who’d been cheated out of entitlements by someone taking advice from HR.

But still, surely they could do something right?

The USU had filed a dispute about the salary system and it appeared that the previous Director of Planning had done nothing to provide progression and in a series of compulsory conferences in the IRC, it was agreed that employees who believed they were “stuck” and not progressing, could make applications for a review. The Commission recommended the unions provide details to the Council.

We asked members and while some of them were concerned about individual vulnerability in a hostile environment and needed reassuring that it was a collective approach, consistent with recommendations from the Commission, fifteen were prepared to participate.

On 13 July depa provided an eight page letter to the CEO, identifying fifteen members who believed they were stuck, including extracts from their emails to depa about why this shouldn’t be the case.

Ms Edwards immediately responded, noted that we provided commentary and details on fifteen employees and said:

Our process for progressing such matters is to follow the grievance procedures in Council’s Core Enterprise Agreement.

This procedure, requiring individuals to put their hand up about something that was unfair, in a climate where that could prejudice them explains why no one had complained in the past. And this stupid and witless proposal was seen by the employers as an opportunity to pick them off one by one.

But it also created a potentially embarrassing farce - we were there as part of an industrial dispute, this procedure was part of the dispute and the proposal to individualise what was intended to be collective, created a potential circular arrangement where if they did lodge an individual grievance and were unhappy, the union could file another dispute - or potentially in our case fifteen additional disputes! A clumsy novice’s approach, aimed more at making it an individual in a collective strategy, but Ms Edwards is not a novice.

Luckily the relatively new Director of Planning Andrew Carfield stepped in with a call to depa and an agreement that he would set up meetings that depa would also attend, with those members, and their manager, to work through the reasons they provided for their concern about being stuck, and find a remedy.

And we did. The Director’s office allocated slots with the three relevant managers involved so that each person, with their manager, their Director, and the union there in support, did all get a remedy. Either progression or a process that would see things happening in the workplace to allow progression in the next occasion. And a very helpful and pleasant person from HR acting as Manager People and Culture Establishment there in support and encouragement.

This became a model for the USU to follow for their members. Sadly for our members at Sutherland Andrew was headhunted and is now the CEO of Camden. Our members’ loss at Sutherland, everyone’s gain at Camden. Congratulations Andrew.

But there’s more, the November meeting of the CC had been provided new policies and protocols, but not in a marked-up form, or with any way of being able to understand what changes the Council was proposing. We wrote supporting the provision of a marked up copy, as the only way it should ever be done, but at the November meeting the union reps found Ms Edwards to be hostile to doing so, and argued it vigorously. It became a meeting our relatively new delegate described as not very pleasant, but fortunately the Director of Corporate Services pulled her into line and agreed that would happen. And it did.

Finally, at the last meeting of the Consultative Committee it was revealed that HR had been managing what is known as the Sick Leave Safety Net from the Core EA, by adding a range of value and other judgements in granting access to the Safety Net not provided for in the EA, and potentially breaching that historic agreement. This breach is probably prosecutable, and there certainly will be retrospective claims arising. To be continued…

No wonder things go wrong in that place. Sutherland gets another nomination.

Waverley Council

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Waverley Council this year set a record for breaching their legal obligations under the Local Government State Award. For 30 months, two and a half years, they prevented the Consultative Committee from operating. They did this on the basis that there was a pandemic, and they couldn’t be face-to-face meetings, even though the Council itself kept operating over Teams.

The Award has required the establishment of consultative committees at each Council since 1992, thirty years, and this has never happened before. We didn’t have a representative for the Consultative Committee at the time because he had pulled the pin after being made to take excess leave by the Council, so we didn’t know what was happening but six months or so ago the USU raised the issue with the Executive Manager Human Resources, Safety & Wellbeing People, Kerrie Pryke, but nothing happened.  

Members of the Committee raised it locally because there are issues like a new salary system and job evaluation that would ordinarily be dealt with by the consultative committee and it looked like the Council was trying to get away with something. Locals stopped doing this when they felt it wasn’t good for their future wellbeing. Nice, EMHR Safety and Wellbeing, really?

depa filed a dispute with the IRC, but only after pursuing the Council to get their fingers out immediately and convene the Committee, to be ignored and fobbed off with a response from EMHRS&W that it was someone else’s responsibility but not disclosing who or what that was.

In the end the Council agreed to a recommendation by Commissioner Muir that the Committee be resuscitated and to meet next as it ordinarily would on the next second Tuesday of the month.

The dispute demonstrated something we all know, there is a high correlation between councils caught doing the wrong thing and complaining about unions being intimidatory. Thirty months breaching the Award, they should have extracted as many fingers as they needed to respond to the unions’ requests immediately. Sprung. No wonder they felt intimidated, poor little loves.

It was refreshing to have the relatively new GM (Emily Scott, pictured above) apologise to members at the first meeting of the Consultative Committee, but no one has put their hand up, acknowledged it was a mistake, and apologised. We know who was responsible, they would have been better simply acknowledging it.

The unions identified eleven policies and protocols that had been varied, amended or changed in some way, including proposed changes in the job evaluation system, that should have been through the Consultative Committee. Looks like someone there wanted to avoid consulting. As the GM wasn’t the GM for more than a majority of the thirty months, it was kind and courageous of her.

In an email to depa from the GM on 13 October it was emphasised “all future correspondence... be sent directly to me and Records Management via the following email addresses”. Suits me, just like the old 1919 Act, all correspondence to the Town Clerk, and no need to risk poor little loves in HR feeling intimidated.

A month or so later and clearly on Emily’s watch, the USU negotiated a one-off payment for certain employees in the salary system. This was apparently a commitment by the Council acknowledging “some of the poor consultation about the proposed new Salary Framework review”. We found out only when members were told by local representatives of the USU, that there would be a one-off payment for everyone in the salary system except for the managers. We wrote to the GM on 18 November asking for an explanation emphasising while we had no problem about the payment, just the decision to exclude the Managers, who are also on the same salary system and who would have been equally affected by the poor consultation.

At this stage we start to get inconsistent messaging. Ms Pryke responded on 21 November, attaching an “All Staff Communication” that was distributed that day saying:

‘in acknowledging the delay and lack of consistent messaging throughout this project, we have negotiated with the United Services Union for a proposed one-off payment to all staff, below Manager level.”

But in the letter attached to depa they say they write to advise of:

“consultation about to take place regarding an interim measure quote and rather than just look at an interim solution for our wages and our lowest paid employees, Council has broadened the interim measure to include all employees below Manager level.”

So, what was it, the agreement with the USU was up to the level of Managers as stated to all staff, but that it was the Council which had “broadened the interim measure to include all employees below Manager level? If that’s the case, they can exercise a discretion to provide it.

And ironically they say that the compensation is for “a lack of consistent messaging”. They'd better be careful, or the unions will want an additional interim payment based on all this.

The Council has put a number of arguments against the Managers getting the one-off payment: that the agreement with the USU prevents it but the USU have said it doesn’t; the managers have had access to progression and arrangements anyway, but so also have some of those receiving the payment; that the Managers have had access to progression and other entitlements, but don’t provide evidence of what that, or they may be; that some grades have been reviewed in recent years, but don’t provide evidence of that; and in the most recent correspondence, that the rates “remain competitive in the market” even though we know that the previous GM did a market survey, the results of which we understand identify their professional rates as being under the market, but to redress the problem would have cost $2 million, and nothing happened to the recommendations. We’ve asked for the report, we don’t have it.

This will probably be the last dispute we file in 2022, or the first in 2023. Waverley gets nominated.

And the winner is…

Two headed monster 1

Mid Coast wins the prestigious award for The Worst HR in Local Government, aka the Golden Turd. Their initiatives to change the salary system to reduce current entitlements to progression and higher rates of pay, their assertion people can’t remain on their current salary system if they get worse entitlements and pay on the proposed system, and the astonishing 483 - nil vote of disaffected employees is a real vote of no-confidence in management.

Their draft documents for how people will progress include their vision of the organisation “where we work collaboratively and are trusted(yes, really) and while the unions hadn’t had any confirmation from the Council they had agreed to the settlement brawled out on the last occasion in the Commission, the GM in an email to all staff said “thank you for your patience as we implement these changes”. Employees at Mid Coast need patience for much more than that.

This is embarrassing year for MidCoast with decisions affecting more employees than the narky sub- professional decision-making at Sutherland and the inconsistent and erratic communication at Waverley.

But reneging on an agreement, negotiated with the redacted in their own barrister’s chambers, in an industry where reneging on an agreement properly made is so rare, no one can remember the last time it happened. This is an industry where the Award was made by consent in 1991 and varied by consent ever since, and regarding the unions as enemies, is contrary to this thirty years of cooperative history. 

Congratulations, to the redacted.

Councillor Misconduct Review released

Tim Hurst Web

The good news is that the Councillor Misconduct Review has now been released. Dated October 2022, it was released on 13 December with a Media Release from the Minister, Wendy Tuckerman.

The Report “proposes the biggest changes to local government integrity measures in more than 30 years” and includes “49 recommendations aimed at improving the integrity, transparency and accountability of the state’s more than 1,200 councillors”.

The Minister notes “it’s clear from recent ICAC public enquiries and the number of Council interventions that changes are needed to build community trust in local government.

The recommendations include harsher penalties for councillor misconduct and ensures the framework for dealing with misconduct is more independent, effective and efficient.”

The media release contains links to the report and a Consultation Guide inviting feedback up until 3 February.

We’ve already had our say, depa was the only union that made a submission, reflecting the reality our members are those most vulnerable to councillor antagonism and hostility and we are one of the fourteen organisations or people who were interviewed.

We will be making a submission next year.

That’s it for us

Bad Santa 2 480

We’ve all had enough, hanging out for a break to come back fresh, strong and revitalised for 2023.

Our Office Manager has resigned, and luckily for us, Margaret Bayliss, who retired two years ago after working for us for seven years and for the Institute of Building Surveyors for 15 years, is back on a very part-time basis to cover the end of this year and the beginning of 2023 while we recruit a new Office Manager. Thank you, Margaret.

The office will be closing at midday on Thursday 22 December, Margaret will be here for a day or two a week and I’ll be back on Tuesday 24 January.

From the Office and the Committee of Management, we wish you all a well-deserved break, full of love and laughter with your families, good things to eat and drink, lots of relaxation, some exercise, a book or two or more if you can, listen to some music, and get ready for 2023.

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  25. This has to be the final nail in the coffin for the standard contract
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  30. Barbarians rise to keep unfair sackings
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  32. Enough about everyone else, what about us? We’re having an election.
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  36. “The glorification of greed has left Sydney with a vast backlog of misery”
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