LGMA poseurs fail to derail Award

The only dissident in the exercise was the Local Government Poseurs Association which, even though not registered as either an employer organisation or an employee organisation, likes to dabble every now in both roles and again, like a true dilettante, does both badly.

Starting out as the old Town Clerks Society, then the Institute of Municipal Management, then the Local Government Managers Association and now, Local Government Professionals Association - a name which pinches “Professionals” from the name we’ve had for a decade, also pinches the same word from “Professionals Australia”, the Federal name of the LGEA but, more importantly misrepresents its role with the sole purpose of sucking in professionals.

They offer networking and training but really relish the opportunity of acting like a narky 1950’s bosses’ organisation, ignorant of the processes of negotiation and uncomprehending of the nuances and intricacies of the Industrial Relations Act.

Their new interest in professionals unfortunately doesn’t extend to the employment conditions or salaries of professionals, whether at low levels or managerial levels, as they regularly demonstrate.

They had their chance to represent employee interests when involved in the Senior Staff Contracts Working Party last year but their representatives failed to look after the interests of senior staff as employees. They opposed the paying of cash bonuses, the removal of the term requirement altogether and the proper extension of the minimum notice period.

When they sat down to develop the first Standard Contract with the LGNSW and the DLG, they weren’t really sure what role they were playing. Still, desperate for recognition and flattered by being invited to sit down with public servants of the Crown with far better protection and entitlements and the LGSA (which really is the employers’ organisation and does do mature and sophisticated) they were unrestrained by their ignorance.

Away they went, allowing the DLG to then claim employees affected by the contracts were represented, and ultimately bearing responsibility for the rigidity and unacceptability of that first Standard Contract and the continued capacity of a Council to sack good general managers as well as bad. Thanks for that. It’s beyond argument that more good general managers get sacked under the “for any other reason” provisions than bad ones for any reason.

While the President of the IRC can acknowledge the significance of the harmonious industrial relations evident in the final agreement that came from 150 varied and diverse claims, LGPA, by resolution of their Board, intervened in the relationship between employer organisations and employee organisations wanting a harder line.

LGPA President Paul Bennet wrote to the President of LGNSW on 29 April (demonstrating his own professionalism by spelling his name wrong – hey Paul, its Keith, not Keth) and then later, with their CEO as a co-signatory, to the Manager of Employee Relations - two hysterical letters with multiple factual errors (especially the first one) and levels of shock and horror rarely seen in local government correspondence.

There were three things that they wanted to derail.

The first was a proposal in the negotiations to ensure that if councils set up employment arrangements, the employees concerned remained covered by the State Award. This was one of the original claims made but they claimed it was “lodged at the last minute” which was completely untrue. They argued in favour of Councils being able to set up other arrangements to pay less than the State Award and to provide worse conditions. Nice. Given that this claim, which did find its way into the final Award, would protect employees if a number of councils set up planners or EHOs, for example, to work across a number of council areas, we are entitled to challenge their commitment to the interests of professionals.

They opposed a provision restricting labour hire to encourage proper employment conditions in the industry but they revealed the depth of their misanthropy by opposing the provision to allow a Council to provide sick leave at half pay under “extenuating circumstances” - namely for the chronically ill or injured and dying.

The letter was ill-informed, ignorant of century-long processes developed in New South Wales for industrial relations and foresaw horrific consequences. The letter, signed by CEO Annalisa Haskell and President Paul Bennett claimed “the implications for the sector are significant and precedents are potentially nasty”, for a start. Nasty? Nothing much nasty about protecting pay and conditions.

The image from the Wizard of Oz is perfect - the cowardly lion, the tin man with no heart and the scarecrow with no brain - cowardly, heartless and brainless. That will always be LGMA/LGPA for us.

Beware.

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