80 jobs lost at Newcastle as GM takes an axe to the organisation

A new Lord Mayor (see depanews November 2012 - “Danger danger, warning warning as novices gain control in September elections”) who doesn’t like the way the Council processes DAs, who thinks staff are featherbedded and inefficient and who threatened to take a class action against Lake Macquarie City Council for “falling for this unjustified, worldwide idiocy about sea level rises” and not let him develop in areas threatened by rising sea levels, has been presiding over a slash and burn exercise by Acting GM, and now this week the confirmed GM for five years, Ken Goldthorpe.

Not a lot of respect for rights under the Award or the Enterprise Agreement but in the end Council has removed 80 positions. Last week both the Lord Mayor and the GM announced they were delighted with the “minimal fuss” that accompanied the loss of jobs.

Newcastle has a long and sad history of losing jobs. Whether it be BHP or anyone else at Newcastle or generally, it’s hard to find people these days who don’t understand that losing a job devastates workers, their families and has flow on impacts right through the community. But clearly Jeff and Ken either don’t understand the devastating social and personal effects, or they don’t care.

Using the word “fuss” to describe legitimate emotions or reactions as workers lose workmates, as they juggle the workload with fewer employees, and as those remaining employees are told their jobs won’t be re-evaluated until next year, trivialises the loss and reveals these two blokes as hard-heads, cost cutters and slashers who don’t feel anything. Two Tin Men.

The unions understand that sometimes restructuring involves the loss of jobs. There are protections in the State Award and other industrial instruments about how this process should be conducted, how the Council needs to provide full information about its process, and even how they can review its decision once the unions and the employees concerned have had a chance to respond. Some councils have decided not to proceed as part of this process.

What an Award or industrial instrument can’t do, is to make people understanding or caring in the process. Sadly you can’t legislate to make people better people.

Only the insensitive in a process with significant personal, familial and community repercussions, would trivialise the workforce’s response. “Fuss” is the wrong word - but because both the Tin Men have used it we can only despair for the future at Newcastle. 

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