Reviewing our rules is much more exciting than watching paint dry

Well, it was for us. There hasn’t been a complete review of depa’s registered rules in living memory. We’ve made a few adjustments over the time to recognise new offices, or to change our name or something like that, but our rules reflected the fact that they were drafted in a different era. The rules may have never been comprehensively reviewed and technological changes alone make this a big job.

Two reports with recommendations, a bit of legal advice and all signed off with a unanimous resolution of the Committee of Management at our last meeting on 11 May. If the rules were ever comprehensively reviewed it would have been more than forty years ago. We’ve now rewritten them entirely.

All our financial controls were about cheque signatories when we only sign two or three cheques a year anyway and all of our transactions are electronic; we needed electronic options for decision-making for the Committee of Management; we needed to recognise that members can become members over our site; we wanted to ensure members who apply for membership actually pay us before they get accepted; we wanted to reduce the timeframes for unfinancial members so we can remove them sooner; we wanted to reduce the timeframe and the way we go about throwing out members who don’t pay if they disappear or leave the industry and don’t tell us; and we wanted to remove reference to being allowed to charge an admission fee as well as membership fees.

We wanted to provide better financial oversight by the Committee of Management in the interests of good governance too and remove the burden of resigning with notice and paying us money to leave when you leave the industry.

We made innumerable other changes. Some practices, like allowing members on parental leave to put their membership on hold and still receive the benefits of union membership while they were on leave and negotiating their return to work, also needed to be legitimised.

Some old rules disappeared, new rules were drafted and we are ready and fit for the future. For want of a better cliche.

This was foreshadowed in the last depaNews and the NSW Industrial Registrar has now advised that the new rules have been accepted in their totality and apply from 1 June. They are on our website. The news made our day. (Last Dirty Harry quote this financial year, we promise.)

You can use this link to see the new rules with a further link to the certified stamped copy from the Industrial Registry (at the bottom of the page) to see how comprehensively things have changed. The only rules unchanged are rules 1 and 4, some changes are limited to re-numbering but the rest of the rules have been changed in one way or another and many have been completely rewritten.

If you would like to wade your way through a marked up copy of the old rules to see the millions of changes, please contact Margaret in the office and she can send you a pdf.

As a summary, the changes do this:

  • allow our registered office to be any other place that the Committee may decide without having to change the rule in the future
  • apart from in our name, replace the word “Association” with “union”
  • replace the title Secretary/Treasurer with Secretary
  • provide for electronic membership applications and that membership applications always be accompanied by payroll deduction form or payment to stop people applying and never paying and then having to be thrown out later
  • make a resignation from membership easier so that notice and payment in advance to cover that notice needn’t be provided any longer
  • remove the rule allowing us to charge an admission fee
  • remove any reference to a maximum fee for membership
  • allow the waiving of fees for members on parental leave
  • remove half yearly subscriptions in favour of annual payments or payroll deductions
  • remove the capacity to sue unfinancial members for arrears
  • reduce the period that unfinancial members are entitled to services
  • tighten up removing unfinancial members from membership and allowing communication to email addresses as part of this process
  • allow the Committee to electronically remove unfinancial members on a monthly basis rather than at meetings of the Committee of Management less frequently.
  • provide a fairer process to discipline members (and no, we have never used this rule anyway)
  • clarify who chairs a meeting in the absence of the President, or who convenes a meeting
  • allow for electronic or other forms of communication and the provision of notice and agenda papers for Committee meetings
  • hold Committee of Management meetings by teleconference, videoconference or other electronic means and the carry resolutions by electronic means between meetings
  • clarify the rule on life membership and remove the current arrangements that life members can’t hold office or continue to be active in the union
  • provide to members of the Committee of Management a financial statement showing all income and expenditure and a comparison against budget allocations on a monthly basis
  • clarify the role of the auditor
  • relax obligations for members of the Committee to be available for the signing of documents, the affixing of the seal on virtually everything, to allow the Secretary to execute documents on behalf of the union and only affix the seal, if a seal is required to be affixed
  • tighten up the winding up provisions if we have less than 20 members.

There are so many changes we haven’t been able to count them.

We were able to work co-operatively with the regulator during this process (thank you, Jeff) and, as we understand the important role of regulation because most of our members do it, we understand that regulators are cooperative, encouraging and add value.

This has been a significant project and I would like to note here the thoroughness and application of members of the Committee and their encouragement. And Margaret had to wade through the processes and manage multiple versions of marked up copies. Nice work everyone.

If there is one change to the rules which really defines our values and commitment, it is the legitimising of a practice we have had for a number of years of allowing parents on parental leave to put their membership on hold for the duration of the parent leave and allow them to continue to receive the benefits of membership. That, of course, includes advice and assistance when it comes down to the difficult question of returning to work with the preferences for hours and days new parents always have.

If you are pregnant now, we would much prefer you tell us that you leaving work than find out later and encourage you to take advantage of this symbolic service. Blokes and other carers too, of course.

Now we are ready for the next 50 years.

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