30 jobs spilled, third level managers on contract and GM Farooq Potelli refusing to listen

30 jobs spilled, third level managers on contract and GM Farooq Portelli refusing to listen



Not one Council has thought it made sense to introduce the designation of Senior Staff into the third level of management in the 20 years since the Local Government Act gave councils the power to designate positions as Senior Staff. Whether by convention or simply common sense, many councils have chosen not to have any Senior Staff positions other than the GM and none of them have  contemplated extending those dreadful, unfair term contracts below the level of directors. At least, not until now.

Without proper consultation, without advice to the unions covering staff and contrary to the expectation in the Council’s own Status Report in December that in January there would be “consultation with key workforce and industry representative groups”, GM Farooq Portelli has slammed his proposal through Council contrary to a recommendation from the Industrial Relations Commission to withdraw it.

The Council’s resolution on 6 February spills four director jobs and 26 positions of Manager. Even at Liverpool, with its long history of understaffing, substandard accommodation and hostility to employees, this is a new low.

The four positions of director and 26 positions of manager have been dumped to give way to a new structure with two Executive Directors and eight Group Managers - 10 positions to be fought over by the 30 employees who have lost their jobs and who will have to apply for new jobs which will also be opened up to external candidates. Nice.

A dispute filed by the USU and enthusiastically joined by depa and the LGEA has been listed and dealt with four times by the Commission in the past fortnight. On 6 February, the date the GM proposed the Council should consider his new structure, Justice Staff in the Industrial Relations Commission recommended that he withdraw it from the consideration of Council to allow proper discussions with the unions representing affected staff.

He refused to do so, contemptuously thumbing his nose at the Commission.

But he nearly came unstuck when the councillors couldn’t decide whether to do the right thing or not - the vote was even on whether they should reject the Commission’s recommendation and adopt the structure, or do the right thing and leave it to the next meeting. The casting vote of the Mayor, Ned Mannoun, got the offensive new structure and the dangerous and unfair working arrangements over the line.

Nice one, Ned. Councillor Mannoun is publicised on their website as “Liverpool’s youngest and first Liberal Mayor” and at 30, he has already been on the Council for four years. What a great role model. He should know better.

At nearly every opportunity to do the right thing and involve the unions in the process, the GM has chosen not to. He rejected a recommendation of the Industrial Relations Commission (which in itself is pretty much unprecedented) and the Commission directed that he attend on the last occasion the dispute was listed on Monday.

And attend he did. It might be easy for him to laugh off a recommendation, but it’s hard to ignore a direction. Still, being physically present isn’t quite enough - engaging in the conversation and participating in proper discussions and negotiation really underpins the conciliation process and when the GM simply refuses to respond to questioning from the unions, the process is frustrated. Stony faced, stonewalling.

There are two issues here. The first is whether or not the Council can designate the third level of managers as Senior Staff given section 332(2)(a) requires of the positions have to be capable of fitting within the executive band of the Award (by intention and convention the level of management below the GM) but the second is more important.

The second is whether the council should.

What is it about this level of management that drives the GM to remove them from permanent positions and put them on term contracts? And why won’t he disclose his reasons? Sitting stony faced in the Commission and saying that he is doing it because he can, only answers one of the questions.

We think he is afraid to say he wants everyone in his management team to be as vulnerable as he is and capable of being flicked without a fair process. But while he can only be flicked by the Council, the rest of the senior staff can be Farooqed by him.

The Commission set a timeframe which will require the GM to provide his reasons to be examined by the unions and at some stage he will have to listen.

But neither does it make any sense to beat his chest about wanting Liverpool to be an employer of choice and then set up threatening and sub-standard employment arrangements when you could offer genuine enticements - and attractions not available under the standard contract. Put up or shut up, Farooq.

In a way, no one should be surprised. As part of this exercise the GM contracted an external consultant to survey staff to find out how they’re feeling about the changes involved in the restructure. The overwhelming emotion was fear.

Why not extend that fear to the third level of management? We all know the only reason you put people on term contracts is to have them fearful of their future and to get them to do things that they may not ordinarily think appropriate or right.

Don’t forget that if you have accreditation with the BPB that the current transitional arrangements conclude on 1 March. Accredited employees who are happy with their existing level of accreditation needn’t worry, but any employee looking for a higher level of accreditation level will need to get an application in now.


Grumpy Wagga Wagga builder Peter Hurst has had a win over Wagga Wagga City Council with the ADT ordering that the Council disclose details of their investigation of his 2010  complaint.

There is nothing wrong with complainants wanting to be satisfied their complaints were properly investigated and that the result of the investigation is transparent and consistent with the evidence provided. But, there are sometimes people in the community for whom no decision or action, other than the one they want, is ever acceptable.

In 2010 Peter Hurst made a broad range of allegations against two members of ours in the Planning Department. A long investigation by the Council's own Internal Auditor (so long that we filed a dispute to try to hurry it up) cleared the employees concerned and the subsequent industrial dispute set a new standard for protecting employees in the industry. No longer can councils ignore the protection of their employees’ professional reputations as part of their duty of care.

Maybe people were tired and emotional or it could have been the time of year but it seems we will never know. Someone at Wingecarribee Shire thought it made good sense to give 12 months notice to remove a leaseback car from a member just before the end of the year but when we wrote to challenge the decision those responsible scurried for cover like cockroaches under the fridge when the kitchen light goes on.

One of the great improvements in the 2010 Local Government (State) Award was a provision that if an employee had a leaseback car as a condition of their employment, then they had it forever or until such time as they chose to hand it back. This replaced the standard 12 months notice provision for everyone and separated cars into conditions of employment cars and cars provided for other purposes.

Clause 15 of the State Award provides this protection and even provides examples to assist management work out what all this means - specifically, if the car was offered "as an incentive to attract and/or retain the employee" and "the period the employee has access to the vehicle”. This new clause means that virtually all of our members will have cars as a condition of employment and the longer you have a car, the more entrenched that entitlement becomes.

But someone thought that if they told the member that he didn't have the car as a condition of employment then he could be bluffed and would accept the 12 months notice.

We reported briefly in the December issue about attempts by Singleton Council to remove an entitlement for Indoor Staff to three days concession leave over Christmas/New Year, which they had enjoyed as an entitlement under Council policy since 1984. We stopped the Council removing this entitlement in 2011 and ensured that if they want to do anything at all about it in 2012 and subsequently, they need to negotiate with the unions.

This was a messy dispute. Representatives of the Outdoor Staff thought it made sense to have Indoor Staff forfeit some of these days so that the Council could then provide a similar arrangement for the Outdoor Staff - clearly it didn't occur to anyone at the time that the best way of establishing an equitable practice is to bring everyone together on the better standard.

The Council also mistakenly thought that they could remove this entitlement with a resolution of the Consultative Committee - something the Committee did at meetings not attended by our representative, nor that of the LGEA. Charming.

But our proceedings in the Industrial Relations Commission late last year foiled this and subsequently the Council agreed to reinstate the entitlement for 2011 and think about it again in 2012.

If an employee starts work at a Council and there is a condition of employment contained in a Council policy, then that becomes a condition of employment for anyone employed while ever that policy exists. Having an entitlement under Council policy is the best and longest-lasting way of protecting an entitlement.

Entitlements can only be protected for the duration of an industrial instrument like an Award, or an Enterprise Agreement or even a Council Agreement under the Local Government (State) Award but if you have a council policy, it's very, very hard for a Council to remove it. They can decide that they won't provide it to new employees but it is virtually untouchable of those who already have it.

Please contact the office for advice if you find yourself in a similar situation.


Look out, Peter Hurst could be coming to a town near you!

In December’s depaNews we announced that the long-running Wagga Wagga dispute was over. The Industrial Relations Commission on 16 December issued Orders against the Council which required them, within 28 days, to have the statement agreed between depa and the Council (and endorsed by the Commission) published in the Daily Advertiser as a paid advertisement.

But the Daily Advertiser, still stinging from the humiliation of the Press Council giving them a kicking about their failure to provide impartial reporting on the Council and planning issues anyway, refused to accept the ad. This was something neither we, the Council, nor the Commission contemplated.

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