While it’s normally pretty easy to work out if you are in love, it’s not quite so easy to work out when you’re not and to end the relationship. Is it just part of the inevitable ebb and flow, a reaction to the reality of being together all the time and the problems jointly faced and no-one remembering to put the garbage out, a reasonable reaction, or an overreaction to a lovers’ spat? Some people find it harder than others.

Famously, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor married twice - the second time only 16 months after their first divorce. Now Nambucca has joined the ranks of those who remarry (metaphorically speaking, of course) by realising they really were in love with the three director structure that they abolished and replaced with a two director model in 2012 and after an unsatisfactory affair, they want their first love back - resolving 16 months after killing off the three director structure that they want it back.

The 2012 restructure was messy and embarrassing. The Council is hiding the cost of the exercise, refusing to disclose what it cost to make employees redundant. They also refuse to do the calculations that could be made to put a cost on the loss of a competent and experienced Manager Building, who couldn’t cope any longer and fled to Queensland. And, during the course of Nambucca’s affair with a combined corporate services/environment and planning directorship run by the previous director of environment and planning, now they’ve lost that competent and highly-regarded employee to Kyogle. How do you put a cost on this loss?

Not only was the 2012 restructure poorly conceived and planned and reliant upon keeping a GM with planning qualifications to take some of those responsibilities, but only two months after the new structure was implemented, more fiddling took place that made redundant another of our members. How many goes at this do they need? Will the last person out please turn off the lights.

Nambucca is one of the councils identified by both the TCorp analysis and by the Independent Review Panel as being “Weak or Very Weak” and with a “Negative Outlook” where the Panel has called for medium-and long-term financial strategies, amongst other things, to get them out of trouble.

Clearly there’s not much in the way of medium or long term strategies evident here. If Nambucca can’t get its act together on its structure, if it squanders public moneys on losing good staff for the folly of a structure which lasts only a little over a year, then there are bigger questions to ask.  

The Local Government Acts Taskforce released a Discussion Paper on 4 April 2013 and the Independent Local Government Review Panel released their “Future Directions for NSW Local Government: 20 Essential Steps” on 24 April.

Clearly the more significant report is that of the Independent Review Panel because the Panel has produced a well-reasoned, thorough, exhaustive and wide-ranging series of recommendations to allow local government to develop and prosper over the next 25 years.

The Panel provided a presentation to the unions and LGNSW prior to the public release of their Future Directions paper and their 20 Essential Steps build on the financial analysis announced in the previous fortnight by TCorp which showed “a disturbing picture of a local government system facing major financial problems with apparently little awareness of just how serious the situation has become”. How embarrassing is that? “Little awareness of how serious the situation has become” is beyond damning. 70 councils of 153 expected by TCorp to be financially at risk within three years. Uh oh …

 

Okay, so Confucius was obsessed with all the little children being boys, but you know what we mean. We don’t want to quibble but surely one of the most beautiful sights in the world is an employer making sure that they provide flexible working arrangements to allow a parent to properly show their kids the way.

We have lots and lots of enquiries from parents (usually mothers) returning to work after parental leave and finding resistance from their Council - whether that be flexible arrangements generally, or part-time arrangements, or starting and finishing time, or flexible or inflexible lunch breaks that allow them to be comfortable and confident that they are properly discharging their obligations as a parent at the same time as getting back in harness at the Council.

The State Award in clause 2 Statement of Intent encourages councils to “ensure flexibility for work and family responsibilities” but too often do we see short-sighted managers and HR challenging child care arrangements, being pretty inflexible about what constitutes flexibility, having unimaginative rules about minimum lunch breaks or inflexible rules about how many days an employer should work to be full time.

Too many councils scared of “establishing a precedent” when a precedent to provide, for example, full-time hours over four days is worthy only of applause and recognition.

If you are a parent wanting more flexible arrangements, or a parent who is currently part-time that wants to return to full-time work and finding a lack of cooperation and sympathy, we can help.

Local Government Super, like all funds, requires that you make a binding nomination for who gets your death benefit. Ordinarily, in the absence of a will or a binding nomination to the fund, it goes to the spouse.

But LGS finds that there are far too many members of the fund who die without a binding nomination and still have a legally married spouse even though they may have fled that hideous and miserable relationship years ago and are happily entranced with a new partner and a new family.

That becomes a significant problem because, believe it or not, (and no observations here about Nambucca) there are some ex spouses and partners who love the idea of getting their hands on your money when you are dead.

You can make a binding death nomination by going to the LGS site on here.

 

Workplace injuries can ruin people's lives. And not just by robbing the injured worker of the quality of their lives but also the quality of the lives of families and friends of injured workers. Sometimes injured workers are never able to function again as a father, mother, uncle or aunty, son or daughter, wife, husband, lover or fit and healthy grandparents providing support to their kids and that special relationship of grandparents with their grandkids.

Minister for Finance and Services Greg Pearce’s comment that "everybody gets a prize" ignores this pain, suffering and misery. It is facile and offensive and trivialises proper compensation for workplace injuries. Those of us who don’t get injured at work are the ones who get a prize. The Minister made this observation in the Legislative Council on 28 March, in a speech which sneered at long-term physiotherapy and remedial massage and took a shot at over-charging surgeons. His comments missed the point.

If the Minister really was announcing that "this government intends to clean up the scheme", then a review of Workers Compensation to better manage over-charging and over-servicing would be both predictable and reasonable.  No-one defends rorting the system. Rorting makes everyone else involved in the system suffer. Rorting is a function of the adequacy of how the system is managed and the auditing of the processes - that's what needs reviewing.  But that's not what the Government is proposing at all.

The Government has established an Inquiry to investigate significant cutbacks in compensation which have the potential to affect every employee who may have an accident at work or an accident in travelling to or from work. This is not cleaning up the system, this is making injured workers pay.

Unions NSW has come out hard against the Government announcements. And so it should. depa is affiliated to Unions NSW and will, like all other affiliated unions, happily contribute a levy of one dollar per member to fund his campaign. Make no mistake, getting injured at work devastates families as well as the quality of life of an injured worker.

This is what is called an "I told you so" moment. The 2010 campaign by builders and developers in Wagga Wagga, unwilling to comply with normal planning rules, has now been shown to be a beat-up and a farce.

Yesterday, Minister for Planning Brad Hazzard announced that despite the calls by the self-seekers, the boofheads, the flouters of planning laws and the scurrilous yellow press Dirty Advertiser and it's partial, sub-professional and conflicted "journalists", he would not appoint a planning administrator to Wagga Wagga City Council.

This was clearly a beat-up all along. We said as much in depaNews when we said we were confident that the complaints, like that of Peter Hurst, would be dismissed when investigated. Now they have been. And while the Sydney Morning Herald printed that quote in full, the Dirty Advertiser, as part of its partial and complicitous role in backing these miscreants, chose to remove any reference to Mr Hurst. Shame on them, obviously one Press Council finding against them wasn't enough.


It's hard to imagine that there are still councillors out there who don't understand that it is unacceptable to criticise the performance of employees at council meetings. Maybe it's because it was at Blayney, and it gets pretty damn cold at Blayney, that the Deputy Mayor Councillor Kevin Radburn thought it was okay to do precisely this.

And not only that, despite being called into line twice by Mayor Bruce Kingham, he kept doing it. This was unacceptable behaviour by the Deputy Mayor and clearly a breach of significant sections of the Code of Conduct but Director of Environment Services Paul O'Brien by that stage had had enough and left the meeting.

The announcement in the Federal Budget that the sliding scale of FBT payments based on the kilometres travelled by the car is to be scrapped and replaced with a standard 20% tax is currently being digested by the industry.

It never made any sense to have a tax which reduced if you travel more kilometres. This additional travel increased other costs and its encouragement to emit more carbon.

Already some councils are threatening employees that they will try to recoup the increases in FBT from them as part of leaseback fees but these councils are missing the point that providing employees with private use of cars clearly benefits the Council as well as the employees concerned and that this is not an appropriate course of action. Imagine a council trying to recruit you lot without offering a car.

We are in dispute again with Greater Taree City Council.

As a result of a restructure some time ago, the Council has de-skilled and removed authority from a member who was formerly a Manager and is now a team leader. He accepted the position of team leader on assurances by the Council would be virtually indistinguishable and that this would be revealed when the position description was developed. The Council has refused, despite monthly requests, to prepare the position description.

We were able to identify 18 separate responsibilities lost in the change (and that's counting the loss of all delegations only as one factor) in addition to the council's failure to honour their undertaking to prepare a position description but the council would still not agree to make the aggrieved employee redundant.

So, we filed a dispute and, for good measure, added to it two other issues that we were struggling to settle. One was an issue about an employee's right to a free commuter car arising from a letter of appointment which said she had that as an entitlement and the other was a failure of the Council to comply with the rules of their salary system when the salary system allowed two step increases but management simply decided that they didn't want to do that anymore.

The dispute was heard by Commissioner Stanton in the Industrial Relations Commission on 4 May and the Council denied everything. It was like living in Monty Python's famous Argument Sketch...

...

There are now eight or nine councils on the point of signing up for the trial of the Industry Guidelines – and four from the Hunter. This progress was noted when depa’s two disputes were listed for further conciliation in the Commission on 28 April.

Upper Hunter remains wedded to their obsession with urine and its tendency to fail to pick up impairment when an employee is impaired - preferring the prurient window it opens into employees’ private lives and the detection of things that have nothing to do with impairment at work.

The Commission made it clear to the Council that they need to reach agreement with the three unions about the continuation of this policy and this method of testing and not just rely on some purported local agreement. The Council seems reluctant to meet with the unions now. Brow-beating your staff in a little council where people are not experts and don’t know their rights is one thing, but trying to brow-beat the unions is another.

We make the fearless prediction that urine testing will be gone by the end of the year or, at the very latest, after the industry trial is concluded early next year.

In a real snub to union members at Hurstville Council, Pizza Man, General Manager Victor Lampe has told his HR Manager he “wouldn’t bother” responding any further to our investigation of why he shouted pizzas for the freeloaders on Union Picnic Day. In the March issue of depaNews we reported that employees at Hurstville who had chosen not to be union members, and were not entitled to Union Picnic Day under the Local Government (State) Award, were all provided with a free lunch by the General Manager.

We were interested to find out why and in the March issue said we would pursue this and publish the Council's response.

Well, it's been hard to squeeze anything out of Victor. He is far more interested in feeding people who refuse to join unions than he is of responding to us.

First, he had his HR Manager respond to our e-mail and she said "lunch was a small gesture of appreciation in the circumstances". She rejected our suggested explanations but the circumstances are intriguing.


The LGSA has had some success in using the recommendation of Deputy President Grayson in one of depa’s drug and alcohol disputes (IRC 155/11) for the Upper Hunter councils to consider participating in the forthcoming trial of the Industry Guidelines on alcohol and other drugs. We expect to be able to make a formal announcement of which councils will participate in the trial and the anticipated timeframe soon.

But so far, no progress with the urine sniffers at Upper Hunter - who remain resolutely of the view that they want to urine test everyone, including applicants for jobs, to see what they've been doing over the two or three weeks prior to the test.

Sue Cox
Gunnedah Shire Council are also prosing urine testing of all staff under their proposed policy. I also believe this is intrusive.

Local Government Super has been named the Infinity Award winner for 2011 by independent super research company SuperRatings, reinforcing its position as the leader in sustainable behaviour in the superannuation industry.

The Award was presented at the Conference of Major Super Funds last week.

The Infinity Award recognises the super fund that is leading the industry in the pursuit of genuine responsible investment principles and open communication of these processes to its members. SuperRatings assesses Infinity Award candidates based on three fixed criteria - investment, engagement and behaviour.

Bill Hartnett is the Sustainability Manager at LGS. He said he was pleased the Fund’s internal culture and sustainable and responsible investment practices are being recognised.

"LGSS has a strong and long-standing commitment to sustainability, which is guided by the vision of our Board of Trustees and the management team. Winning the Infinity Award recognises that our approach is industry best practice.”

LGS has approximately $3.1 billion invested in responsible investment strategies.


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