Greg wins, Lake Macquarie loses, but don’t tell Liz

Greg Brook

How can it be that a light-hearted observation by Chief Building Surveyor Greg Brook in a Teams team meeting on 29 July 2020 (about a continuing disagreement between the Manager and the building surveyors over cumbersome and inhospitable software) could explode so dangerously like this.

The acting manager saw a recording of the Teams meeting, believed she had been disrespected in a way that did not allow Greg to meet with her informally and apologise for what was basically an inside joke with his team and then move on, but required a formal disciplinary interview and potential disciplinary action. Like using a wheel to break a butterfly, for want of a better analogy.

At that meeting, Greg’s further apology was treated with disdain and an observation that it was a surprise he had apologised, and things just got worse. HR didn’t intervene to protect Greg, followed with some training/re-education about how things are done at Lake Macquarie, and Greg was psychologically injured. On 25 August he left the office on sick leave and never returned.

Here’s a link to earlier treatment of Greg in 2016 that earned them a nomination in our annual HR awards. A series of actions that came to a humiliating conclusion for the HR person who conducted the partial investigation when the GM intervened to remove a punitive financial penalty and agreed that if there were no issues, it would all come off his file in twelve months, which it did.

Greg filed a workers compensation claim through the union’s lawyers, the insurer secretly filmed him and the Council argued that he wasn’t sufficiently damaged if he could go and buy groceries or meet a colleague for dinner in the local pub; they provided no information to his team about what had happened to Greg; they changed the Fair Trading accreditation practices without notice to him in a way that prejudiced his continuing accreditation and when we filed a dispute, because there’d been no consultation with anyone, they defended the process but the Council still has no documented process to show people who are new employees about how to renew their accreditation. These are examples only of multiple indignities, too many to list.

Knowing that his union representative was going on leave for a fortnight, on the Friday afternoon before the leave, HR phoned to say they were going to give Greg a “show cause” letter that afternoon. Despite our agitating for this to be delayed for a fortnight for him to have proper support, including sending a letter to the CEO Morven Cameron on the Saturday urging her to intervene, she refused to do so, allowing those who had already damaged him, to continue.

It was a disgraceful performance by the Council but as the Worker’s Compensation claim proceeded through the Personal Injury Commission, things didn’t go so well for them. In the end the Council chose not to press any of their evidence; agreed to reimburse Greg for eighteen months of sick/ long service leave; withdrew their defence that his injury was “wholly or predominantly caused by reasonable action from the employer” and the Commission awarded Greg the statutory maximum in weekly compensation payments from 14 October 2020 for up to five years as long as the injury continued.

But it’s not finished here -yet to be determined is how damaged (“diminished” as the legislation describes it) Greg is. If its significant, then the costs will be enormous.

CEO Cameron should not have ignored our request to intervene and none of these horrors would have rolled out. Council has a tendency to run witless and poorly conceived defences against employees injured at work, the most extreme example involved a collapse and settlement after twelve hearing days in the Federal Court, in a case run by an employee who had had a heart attack under unrelenting pressure from management. The Council has never disclosed what this cost the ratepayers of Lake Macquarie but it would have been hundreds and hundreds of thousands.                         .

Greg remains damaged by the behaviour of the Council, there is still no remorse, nor acknowledgement that things could have been done differently.

For every winner there is a loser, and LMCC, the CEO and those involved in this process are the losers.

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