2018 depa elections – lucky Lord Buckethead isn’t a member


The NSW Electoral Office has established a timetable for our elections this year.  They will post notices to all financial members on Monday 12 March and nominations will close at 12 noon on Tuesday 27 March.

The Electoral Office will conduct elections for two-year terms for one President, two Vice Presidents, six members of the Committee of Management, and a four-year term for the Secretary.
Our elections are normally fairly orderly processes, because we do invite members to let us know if they’re interested and it’s always members that have acted as a delegate or a member of a consultative committee for years who think they might do something more, so it is rare for there to be surprises.  We could do without our own Lord Buckethead.

How to not lose your leaseback car


This is a good time to remind everyone with leaseback cars that if you sign a leaseback agreement, it means you have to comply with your part of the bargain.  It’s a contractual arrangement, you have to allow the fees to be collected, you might have to wash the car, you will need to look after it as if it’s your own, you will have to avoid motorsport, and you will also have to report any damage to the people running the fleet.  Usually a leaseback agreement requires all damage to be reported and some require “all damage, no matter how minor”.

Make sure you do.  If you don’t, it’s breaching a condition of the lease and you can be absolutely certain that there will be another provision in the lease in which breaches of the provisions may see the end of your car.  One day, someone will get you.

If you turn up to report some damage, and the people running the fleet tell you not to bother, make sure you get that advice from them in writing.  Just for later.
If the car has been repaired and you go to pick it up and don’t think it’s been repaired properly, don’t accept it or make sure you properly document with those who accepted it back from the panel beater those things that have not been done properly, so you don’t get blamed later.

If you have a leaseback agreement, read it so you understand it.

We spend a lot of our time arguing about fleet management and leaseback arrangements with councils but leaseback arrangements continue dependent upon those people with the Council cars not abusing the arrangement.  Just saying...

Government decides to move the IRC out of the Sydney CBD


In 2016 and 2017 depaNews covered the moves by the NSW Government to dismantle the Industrial Relations Commission.  They separated its two constituent parts - the Industrial Court, which was moved into the Supreme Court, and the Commission itself and its primary responsibility to conciliate and settle disputes by agreement, to remain as a separate entity.  A separate entity with a Chief Commissioner and four Commissioners supported by 14 staff working for the Commissioners and in the NSW Industrial Registry.
But the Government doesn’t understand what the Commission does, and initial plans to move the five Commissioners and their staff to Goulburn Street to fit into the NCAT building (because that was a tribunal made from of a variety of parts and roles they thought the Commission could be hammered into) were so flawed that they didn’t proceed.
The courtrooms were too small and the parties appearing wouldn’t fit, there were no separate conference or negotiating rooms for those occasions when the Commission was conciliating with one side while the others remain somewhere else, and it was given up as folly.
But now the Government is up to no good again - proposing to move the IRC from the Sydney CBD to Parramatta without consultation with any of those people who use the services of the Commission.  No-one spoke to the employers’ organisations, no-one spoke to LGNSW representing 120 or so councils in NSW, no-one spoke to the individual unions which appear in the Commission, no-one spoke to UnionsNSW, no-one spoke to the Bar Association representing the barristers who appear, no-one spoke to the Law Society representing the solicitors and no-one spoke to the employees who would be affected, the members of the Commission, or the head of the jurisdiction.
This is NSW Government consultation at its proudest.
The complication has been that it’s hard to identify who would have consulted.  Described as a decision of “Government”, no-one is prepared to say who made the decision.  No-one knows whether it was made by all members of the Government, the Cabinet, an individual minister or even a couple of them, staggering home late one night from the Parliamentary bar and wondering why they shouldn’t send 14 people out from the CBD to Parramatta as part of the Government’s commitment to moving people to the west.  A small step of course, but an important one made in those circumstances.

Bit, by bit, the information has been revealed with draft floorplans as well.  The plan is to move the IRC out of the CBD without asking anyone who uses the system whether that’s good, bad or indifferent, and move it to Parramatta - 10 Smith Street, to be precise.

When you go to a museum or gallery or some other kind of Government institution they invariably ask you your postcode, so they have some idea of where the punters are coming from.  But no one did this - a relatively simple request could be made by court reporters asking advocates and lawyers appearing to record the postcode of their office or chambers.  Far too sensible and clearly not desirable because it would show virtually everyone who appears in the IRC has an office or chambers in the CBD.  Except probably us, with our office at Five Dock.

If governments don’t properly disclose why they’re doing things then we hapless citizens and users of government services try to work out why this would have happened, what was the motive.  Moving 14 people out to the west is clearly not the reason.
It’s hard for the Government to confess that the beautiful 19th century Victorian Chief Secretary’s building in Bridge Street that currently houses the Industrial Relations Commission and offices for the NSW Governor would be a marvellous piece of prime real estate that has had greedy, drooling developers trying to get their rapacious fat fingers on for decades.  The Government has already sold the Department of Education building, it’s only a matter of time before the other beautiful building in Bridge Street occupied by the Department of Planning for decades goes as well. Then they will all be lost to public ownership and access.

Some people think they can get away with anything...


We’ve just stopped a Council, which has been breaching the Award and stealing money from employees by making them work more than 35 hours a week in their tracks.  Mergers have the advantage, as we’ve seen at Georges River, of identifying things that don’t look right and where questions need to be asked.
When Murray River was formed by the merger of Murray Shire and Wakool, a member from Wakool was offered a job requiring a 36 hour week.  And he asked the obvious question - both reasonably and politely.  Not the obvious way with a, WTF!

But the Council was reluctant to answer the question, behaving as if ignoring it would make it go away.  We now know that historically, that has worked for them.  Then we became involved, they were reluctant to answer our questions as well and significantly frustrated by this stonewalling, we filed a dispute in December to have the IRC help find the answers.

We didn’t know whether we were talking to people who didn’t understand, or were a bit slow, or who’d been sprung at last and were trying to hide it, but before Commissioner Newall on 18 December it was agreed that LGNSW would work with the Council to try to understand what was happening.

What was happening was that Murray Shire (for longer than anyone was prepared to acknowledge) had been making 35 hour week employees work 36.  It was claimed this allowed them to accumulate sufficient hours to close the place over Xmas/New Year but the calculation showed that collecting up to 52 additional hours (or even 44, if you assume people take a bit of leave) they were ripping off the staff.

We understand that members from Murray Shire had done the calculations, worked out that they didn’t add up and asked for explanations from management years ago but they were ignored.  We understand how that happened because when we asked the same reasonable questions they ignored us. We had a phone conversation going through the maths of it all and there was almost a begrudging realisation about what was going on (their calculation had clearly been based on a 38 hour week), so clearly the lightbulb is starting to glimmer, although quite weakly.  We thought it was a sign they got it but then they went into hiding.
What we were asking was how many employees had been affected by this and for how long.  Reasonable questions, lawful questions and questions deserving an answer, but we got nothing.

depa is hard to ignore and with extremely valuable assistance from LGNSW we have now resolved the dispute for three depa members and four LGEA members (for reasons we don’t understand, USU members didn’t think there was a problem) with an agreed calculation to establish compensation going back six years.

The Council was keen to keep the settlement in individual Deeds of Release with confidentiality provisions and, for the sake of a settlement like this, we agreed.  This has been done.
But really, what’s going on down there?  The deeds our members signed required the payment to be made within seven days and the Council failed to comply with the requirements of the deed for each of our three members.  Almost as if they were asserting some bizarre corporate value of intransigence and wilful disobedience.
They failed by only a day or two, but a breach is a breach and clearly down at Murray River Shire there are far too many things well-beyond their understanding and capacity.

What else have they been hiding at the old Murray Shire?
This could be a regular part of depaNews because today we discover that the same HR Manager has a proposal to change the alignment of the pay periods now that Murray River has merged. She provides three options that are being considered and one of them allows for employees choosing to make up for a week when they don’t get paid with “one week of cashed out annual or long service leave”.

Jeeze Mary, do you mind.  The Award does not allow the cashing out of annual leave or long service leave under any circumstances.  It does allow long service leave to be taken at double pay but that requires someone not to be at work and on leave.  Clearly it’s time for someone to attend an LGNSW course on how the Award works....

Going down like dominoes at Tweed


In December we reported on our two unfortunate members injured at work where the Council and their insurer StateCover had accepted liability for psychological injury directly attributable to the behaviour of management.  That means that the injuries to our members were not their fault, even though we know GM Troy Green is reluctant to use those words.  We know that because we pressed him to do so. Yes, it is your fault Troy. You’re the boss.
To have one employee on workers compensation for hazardous, unacceptable and unpleasant behaviour by the same manager is one thing, but two is quite something else.

But now there are four.  The two new claims are not our members and, unfortunately for them, not members of any union, but one has a workers compensation claim in the same directorate as our members, and the other elsewhere.  What is it about Tweed?

Significantly, our first dispute this year was filed when the Council terminated the employment of our first member injured by the Council early in January.  It was a termination with a significant number of procedural flaws, no sensitivity, compassion or sympathy, and no evidence of care.  It’s one thing to have medical evidence identifying that the employee can’t return to that workplace (at least without four of the management going, starting at the top) but it’s another to bump them out the door in the first weeks of January when medical and industrial advice is hard to get.  It’s hard to imagine that the timing was mere coincidence, with the closure of our office and the advice the employee would have needed.
The dispute continues.

And now StateCover is starting to wonder.  Two accepted claims and two more to be determined in the next week or so. The Council must be getting close to being uninsurable.

Okay, we don’t mind a challenge, but …

When we happened to be the only people in the world who thought to ask a very simple question late last year about why employees with cars at the former Kogarah were receiving a value for those cars in the calculation of “superable” salary for superannuation purposes, and their colleagues in the Georges River merger from the former Hurstville were not, we had no idea what we were getting into.

But what the heck, we were off and running. LGS after an initial period of hostility and trying to blame everyone else is now doing everything to pursue compliance with the Fund’s own requirements for those in the Retirement Scheme and the Defined Benefits Scheme. The IRC is supportive with timetabling and encouragement and LGNSW is pressing its members to provide the information we need to work out just how big this problem is.

When the dispute was listed last in 2017 before Chief Commissioner Kite, LGS undertook to use the annual survey on superable salary to provide more information and obtain as much as they could about the extent of the problem.  LGS kept the parties advised of the documents as they were going out and the dispute was relisted for 30 January - the day after the deadline imposed by LGS for the information to be provided.

Only 38% of councils had responded in time.  January is not a good time and LGS said this is pretty consistent with their expectations.  While this is a disappointing response, it’s not a bad sample and it showed:

  • 1506 of 4544 employees were covered by those responses - 33% of all members affected,
  • 311 of those 1560 employees had access to a private use car but LGS claimed only 137 “required a value to be reported”. 

We can assume that those employees who didn’t require a value to be reported would be senior staff and senior staff contracts where the Council would have reported a TRP.

The IRC has an extremely valuable role to play here because it can direct the attendance of councils not cooperating and the Chief Commissioner provided an encouraging paragraph to be included in LGS follow-up correspondence.  The dispute was relisted for a further report on 21 February with the understanding that the words of encouragement would be included in correspondence from LGS the following day or so to the outstanding 62% of councils, there would be telephone follow-up and LGNSW would be actively chasing up those councils as well.
On 21 February when the dispute resumed, all councils had responded - the last slacker Council (which LGS would not name) responding only the day before.
We will meet with LGS on 8 March after they’ve had time to check, analyse and validate the responses and present some exact figures.  The information provided, before analysis and validation, shows 4402 employees in the funds affected, 328 employees where the Council claimed a value had been reported but of course it’s those councils that didn’t report a value but where employees have private use of a Council car, which need to be identified as well.

But there is a limit to the value of this information.  It will show which councils are providing a value for the private use of the Council car in superable salary but only prospectively for 2018.  It will then require a forensic examination of individual records to determine which councils had been doing so in 2017, 2016 and so on all the way back to when this became a clear and unequivocal obligation in 2003.
Clearly this is going to be a long haul.
We have 145 members who’ve given written consent for depa to have access to information held by both the employer/s and LGS which might ordinarily be regarded by either as confidential to the extent necessary to settle this dispute.  It may well be we can use those members and their consent to audit those councils.  If you are a member affected by this dispute but you have not provided your written consent, it would be a good idea to do so now.
While we will have some information on the current position (and we know of one Council in particular that has confessed to employees that “for the first time”, they will be doing it right) it’s going to take a long, long time to go back and research this sufficiently to work out how to deal with it.  At the very worst, it could involve a forensic examination of salary histories and the employer advice on every single person with a Council car, at each or every of their councils, going back over the last 15 years...

And then we’ll have to start looking at people who retired since 2003 and see how they were treated.  LGS has accepted that after we have reached a settlement for those currently employed, they will write to members of the relevant funds who have retired since 2003 to see if they want to make a claim.  We’ve had a few members contact us from that category and we are committed to assisting mopping up for the retired members as well.

But this is a big deal.  It is also a very, very, very big job.  It won’t be finished this year but we will have a better idea of the figures after our next meeting on 8 March.

Welcome back

For almost all of us, this week ends what always seems like the longest school holidays in the history of the world. They stretch, almost interminably towards the horizon as the six or seven or whatever weeks rollout.

We know what it’s like. But these interminable holidays serve a useful purpose. If it wasn’t for the constant challenges of what to do with the kids over that long, long time, how else could the relentless grind of them going back to school and the challenges of then balancing school and work look easier?

So welcome back to everyone. We hope you find 2018 provides richly rewarding and satisfying work with smart, entertaining and good-company colleagues, in councils that are inspirational bastions of good decision-making, providers of generous and flexible conditions of employment and proper market rates of pay, while at the same time valuable and recognised protectors of the natural and built environment.

But seriously …

That’s good advice. It always helps, before you’re about to do something that could be dangerous or damaging, to make sure you ask someone if there is a risk whether there are better options.

But we're not really reminding you about the dangers of electrocution, are we.

Every now and again it makes sense for us to remind members that it’s always good to get advice about what’s happening at work in restructures or general organisational change. 

If you’re looking at resigning from the Council, or lining up a job at another Council to coincide with a redundancy where you are now (not as easy as it sounds, so beware), or whether it’s reasonable to be in a series of rolling temporary contracts, or what it is that you can get away with, or can’t get away with, it might be smart to get some advice.

That’s what we are here for. Ring or email before you make the big decisions, just in case.


Well, that’s it for us

The depa office will close at midday on Friday 22 December and reopen with reduced resourcing on Wednesday 3 January.  Margaret will be fully back in the office on Monday 8 and I’ll be back on Monday 15 January.  Yes, and as we always say, we will be back in a January-kind-of-way but rested, relaxed and ready to go.
All of our staff and members of the Committee of Management wish you a fun, love and family-filled Xmas and new year and we look forward to creating unrest with you in 2018.

Tweed Shire is the most hazardous workplace for depa members in NSW

Tweed Shire GM Troy Green

There won’t be any teasing buildup, listing nominees and identifying their inadequacies (although they do get a brief mention at the end of this) we are cutting to the chase here.  Tweed Shire wins the 2017 award for the Worst HR in Local Government by a margin so significant, no one else was in the race.

Tweed, and in particular the Building and Environmental Health Unit has the worst culture of workforce bullying depa has seen in the last three decades.  And, to make matters worse, an unacceptably slow and almost begrudging acceptance by the GM and others that something needed to be done.

This all began for our members (and those were not members of ours and in the admin staff) in 2015 with the appointment of a new Manager Building and Environmental Unit.  But it was not until February this year got a we started to get the first phone calls from members wanting to speak confidentially, fearing our involvement (one member was told by the manager that if he was going to get advice from the union, he needed to tell the manager first!), cowed, anxious and having had enough.  For some members, so distressed and anxious were they about retribution, that conversations were difficult and many couldn’t be finished.

There is a limit, given our commitment to protect the health and wellbeing of our members, to how many confidential calls we can manage before we act.  We could handle one, maybe two, but beyond that something clearly needed to be done.
There had been changes to the structure without advice to depa contrary to their obligations under the Award, one employee (not a member of ours) had been moved (largely against her wishes professionally but satisfying a desire to get away from the manager), work was redistributed to people already overworked, all against a background of low morale and the new manager’s unusual communication and management style.
Already by this stage a number of employees had sought advice and assistance from the manager HR, the director and even the GM.  The Council has claimed that they had no formal claims or allegations to investigate but just as we can’t ignore confidential approaches and at some stage need to do something, neither should the Council ignore them.
They could ignore one, or two, but by our counting there were more than 11 people who had approached the triumvirate of GM, director and manager HR for help, either individually or collectively - and while the Council argued that they did do some things, they continued to argue they couldn’t do anything because nothing was formal.  They were aware of the problem, they failed to fix it.

One of our members brought the matter to a head with allegations of bullying and harassment.  We became involved and out of that involvement the Council agreed to have a review of the change process, but only in relation to the Environmental Health section of the Unit.
Our member who provided the impetus for this review has been on sick leave on and off since April and on workers' compensation continuously since May - with the Council and their insurer StateCover in June accepting that they had been injured in the workplace and by the manager.  This was to be our first member sufficiently damaged the have a workers’ compensation claim accepted.

And the phone calls from members kept coming, confidentially of course and on 31 May, just before the external consultant was to conduct the review I took the unusual step of emailing all members asking if they were okay and whether they wanted us to do something.  The protection of confidentiality confirmed that they did.  And didn’t they unload on what had been an horrific time for them going back over the two years.  They tried to manage it and cope, but received no assistance from the Council, and could cope no longer...

The next day the GM set the tone for how they would respond to our concerns in a letter of response berating depa for communicating with members on the eve of the Independent review in a way which “has the potential to compromise the integrity and independence of the review process and as such directly or indirectly negatively impact the health and well-being of Council staff.”

We live with the continuing regret that we didn’t file a dispute then, to get the whole thing into the IRC in an open and public way and have the IRC assist the management of the issue. We may have been able to better protect our injured members.

Interestingly the GM committed to address the problem and asserted that their commitment “is practically demonstrated by the time, money and resources committed to the review process currently underway.”  The GM can now show us how much that commitment has cost, both in time, money and resources.  Come on Troy, what have you spent so far?

It then emerged that the review was not going to interview those employees in the Building section, nor the admin staff, nor transferred staff, nor anyone who had left the organisation unhappy about the change in managerial style.  We were able to have a Council agree to broaden the review to cover the building staff and the admin staff but not transferred staff or those who had fled the organisation.  Why would the Council want the consultant to talk to them when they already knew what the consultant would find?

It was clear that management at the Council, particularly the GM, the Director and the HR Manager, were keen to remain part of the problem rather than part of the solution and by this stage we knew at least seven people had made complaints to the triumvirate.  On 18 July we wrote to the GM under the heading “the emerging evidence of the hazards of working at Tweed” imposing deadlines to be provided with the relevant reports into the injured worker and the conclusions of the review and we met at Murwillumbah on 27 July - from 11 to 3:30, largely without lunch punctuated by arguments about having access to documents for fear that we would misuse them.

The GM agreed to take some immediate steps to reduce the hazards in the workplace while a consultant tried to rebuild workplace relationships, mentor and help the manager work on his empathy and self-awareness, conduct workshops for all staff to assist them develop a resilience and assertiveness to allow them to tell the manager when his behaviour was unacceptable or hurtful, so they could become part of the therapy.  Lovely.

The GM agreed that the manager would be directed not to have one-on-one meetings, nor meetings with staff in his office with the door closed and to discourage the manager from getting others to interrogate employees about what they were saying in what the manager thought looked like suspicious circumstances.  Please, how was this allowed to develop?  These were intended to be temporary arrangements, but they continue six months later...

And it hasn’t got any better.  We now have a second member off work on workers' compensation with the Council and StateCover also acknowledging that the same manager was responsible for the injury.  Significantly, the injury occurred during the mentoring,  during the significant hands-on assistance provided by the consultant to the manager and support to employees both through the EAP and, for at least four of our members, seeking advice and assistance from the external consultant as well.  A proper costing of this exercise will reveal that it has cost the Council a fortune.

The Council is lucky that it’s only two of our members on workers' compensation.  One of those is unlikely to return at all but the other has high hopes to return to safe work and a hazard-free workplace. One member preferred to remain at the Council but to restructure to avoid having to report to the manager and this has provided temporary respite, and a fourth yesterday said to me that the manager now rarely comes out of his office and employees can go to the lunchroom without being scared.  That’s all good news, of course, but how much of a solution is locking the manager up?

This is the most hazardous workplace for our members in New South Wales, the GM is responsible for allowing it to develop, failing to manage it and failing to remove the problem.  It is something that he knew about from late 2015.  We have 509 emails in our Tweed file since March and we don’t keep them all.

And while the GM was responsible for allowing it, the director and the HR manager were complicit by defending their inaction because they didn’t have a formal complaint, and being part of the problem.

Two accepted workers' compensation claims, one member temporarily safe by restructuring the job to remove one-on-one contact and others, thinking things are okay because the temporary rules about no one-on-one meetings, no closed-door meetings continue six months later and look like continuing well into 2019.  Clearly there was a simpler solution? 

What about the others?

Campbelltown lumbers on with the glacier-like pace of their restructure and replacement of experienced employees lost more than a year ago, but have redeemed themselves a bit and don’t get nominated by doing the right thing for a member mum returning to work on a two-day week part-time basis; Murray River has been exposed for stealing hours from workers by making them work 36 hours a week instead of 35 and then been largely uncooperative about trying to resolve it, and it’s a problem that goes back for many years at the former Murray Shire; and Sydney City, which simply can’t help itself and continues to present as a Council with an admirable and progressive approach to planning, transport, climate change and making Sydney a more attractive city but with employment conditions and an Award that sits more appropriately in the 1960s and a hostility to the significant and progressive changes in the State Award over the last 10 or 20 years.
But really, none of these places injure their employees like Tweed does.

depaNews HR awards will be out Wednesday or Thursday...

Despite what looks unnervingly like an outbreak of good HR in 2017, we still have some nominations and we will have a clear winner.

depa elections next year

Early in 2018 will see the two-year election cycle for the positions of President, two Vice Presidents, and six members of the Committee of Management.  This will also coincide with the four-year cycle for the position of Secretary.

Financial members can expect to receive notice from the State Electoral Office in February or March.

There is currently a vacancy on the Committee of Management and while all the other members of the Committee will be re-contesting their positions, we are looking for one more member interested in bringing their experience, usually as our delegate or representative on the Consultative Committee, onto the Committee of Management.  But the election allows anyone to stand, experienced or otherwise. It’s the joy of the democratic process, after all.

Ordinarily we find candidates are people who have already been active in depa and want to become more active.

Think about it over the break.  If you’d like to know more about it, give me a ring.

Code of Conduct

Hope you got your submissions in.  We did and here it is if you are interested.

As a reminder, because this is the wrong time of the year to find yourself in trouble, beware of the current 6.7(i) because there are over-excited people out there arguing that the prohibition of “staff meeting with applicants or objectors alone AND outside office hours to discuss applications or proposals” doesn’t only apply to dealing with formal application or objections as part of your job.  It means you can’t give advice to your mum, or your mate, at home and in your own time.

LGNSW CEO Donna Rygate proudly launches their game changer

Well, we don’t like it, LGEA doesn’t like it, the USU has said that they won’t accept anything which is a breach of the Award and will dispute breaches at each Council, but LGNSW will roll out their Capability Framework in 2018 regardless. They say it suits their purposes and we all say it’s a big steaming pile of it.

When our dispute was first listed before Chief Commissioner Kite in the IRC on 10 October 2017 LGNSW agreed in the course of conciliation to publishing something on their website discouraging councils from proceeding to implement the framework until they had prepared guides and issuing cautionary advice that the framework does not alter Award obligations to evaluate positions according to the Award or do a variety of other things required by the salary system.
Well, in their usual weasel words way, they said “not recommended” rather than “discouraged”, but that’s about as good as it gets with zealots like that, lining up for their Kool-Aid*.
Since then, LGNSW has produced four Guides, to which we provided a comprehensive response in a long, long letter dated 11 December identifying those parts of the Award in addition to the cautionary notes about clause 7 Salary Systems and critiquing the four individual Guides.  LGNSW adopted a number of our suggestions but, as far as we were concerned, not enough.  However, they were prepared to acknowledge that they had understated the award clauses to which this framework thing would relate, and may potentially affect, and it’s now agreed that the following clauses will be incorporated:

Clause 2 Statement of Intent
Clause 5 Skill Descriptors
Clause 7 Salary System
Clause 8 Use of Skills
Clause 9 Performance evaluation and reward
Clause 31 Training and Development
Clause 39 Workplace Change, and
clause 40 Termination of Employment and Redeployment due to Redundancy.
It remains a deeply flawed document without the precautions to protect employees from zealous HR or management acolytes.  Example, it’s all well and good to caution these guileless innocents that there are two particular things that they are obliged to do under clause 7 Salary Systems but that clause obliges councils to do 12 things.  What happens to the other ten?

Returning to the Commission on 15 December, LGNSW acknowledged that they had no proposed launch date, they hadn’t yet arranged training and information sessions but they would be going hard with it in 2018. In its current form it suits their purposes.

Whether or not councils will adopt this framework remains to be seen. LGNSW has coyly developed a step-by-step process that at no stage requires anyone to understand what it is, or what it isn’t, or where the benefits are, or how astonishingly staff-intensive and ludicrously expensive it will be to roll out a process which, in many ways, is simply saying what the industry does now, but in a different language. This will cost those councils duped by the zealots calling them to join them in the line waiting for their Kool-Aid*, a fortune.

LGNSW is trying to suck up to the NSW Government by adopting a strategy introduced in the State public sector after 50 years of inaction.  This compares unfavourably to what we have done in local government - the dramatic reform initiatives developed over decades of cooperation with the local government unions and now enshrined for the last quarter of a century in the Local Government State Award.
And while it might have been boasted as a game changer by the current CEO, whether or not the newly elected LGNSW Board thinks this profligate waste of local government’s precious resources and money is worthwhile, remains to be seen.
We will be supplying information to our representatives on consultative committees to allow them to fully understand our concerns about the Award and its obligations on councils and where those obligations are at risk.  But make no mistake, this is a very costly exercise where the best LGNSW can say is that there are “possible” benefits.
*"Drinking the Kool-Aid" is an idiom commonly used in the United States that refers to any person or group who goes along with a doomed or dangerous idea because of peer pressure. The phrase often carries a negative connotation when applied to an individual or group. It can also be used ironically or humorously to refer to accepting an idea or changing a preference due to popularity, peer pressure, or persuasion. In recent years it has evolved further to mean extreme dedication to a cause or purpose, so extreme that one would "Drink the Kool-Aid" and die for the cause.

Is that the time?

Almost December, can that be right? As extraordinary as it might sound, 2017 has seen what can only be described as an outbreak of pretty good behaviour by HR. Maybe the mergers preoccupied people with developing PDs, recognising protections of staff while consolidating practices as best they can, or something’s gone in the drinking water, or my presentation as part of a panel at the LGNSW HR conference the end of 2016 was so beguiling, instructive and compelling that those HR people present were transformed and started to look after the interests and welfare of employees, instead of just seeing them as targets, or possible cost savings.

But something has happened - to the extent that sometimes we wonder what we’ll do in December when we need to announce our prestigious, authoritative and highly-anticipated Worst HR In Local Government Award - more popularly known as the Golden Turd.

And look out for this...

Members need to be aware of the current provision in the Code of Conduct known as the Wollongong provision when it was introduced. It’s found at the section titled “Inappropriate interactions” and prevents at 7.5(i)“Council staff meeting with applicants or objectors alone AND outside office hours to discuss applications or proposals.”

This was entirely appropriate when it went into the Model Code because the ICAC had revealed Council staff working away from the office and outside hours. Everyone assumed it prevented Council staff not meeting with developers outside hours and off the premises.

But we are aware of at least one Council which has taken the view that this, in its broadest interpretation, prevents employees of the Council when they are not working (that is, out of hours or on weekends) giving advice or assistance to friends and family in any dealing with the Council.

And when we checked this interpretation with the Office of Local Government, they agreed that in a broad sense that kind of activity could be affected. WTF?

Beware of this risk. Everyone needs to check whether their Council reads this provision as broadly as this before you help your Mum get an application together.

We will deal with the unreasonably broad interpretation of this provision in our submission.

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