Mixed reception to IPART Report

When the Premier announced the release of the IPART report on Fit for the Future on 20 October, councils were given a deadline of 18 November to respond. Our email to members the following day urged you all to relax but noted that there were plenty of opportunities for panic here.

Hysteria, the desperate and the dateless, musical chairs, nothing to worry about and waiting for a miracle pretty much summarises the range of the industry’s response.

Like a call for “last drinks” at a drunken event for desperate singles, those who didn’t have their arm around someone already, or an eye on a potential partner, started to look around at what was left. Gee, if you amalgamate with Auburn does the Deputy Mayor come too? If you amalgamate with North Sydney can you do it and remove the capacity of the electorate to make a practical joke of it when they vote for the mayor? If you amalgamate with Mid-Western can you wait until ICAC has woken up and nailed some "persons of interest"?

There is no doubt that the Government is committed to the largest and most dramatic shakeup of local government in its history. Sick of decades of encouragement and hoping for the best, the Government has a firm commitment to a process that had an independent Review with its own recommendations, then developed its own essential criteria to determine pass or fail, then forwarded those criteria and council responses to IPART, that is the Independent Prices and Regulatory Authority, for IPART to analyse councils’ responses to both the independent review panel’s recommendations and the fitness criteria. And now IPART has done precisely what the Government has asked it to.

Time is running out. The Government won’t now backtrack and start again or retrace its steps. They’ve put themselves in a position where they really can’t. Their approach has been logical, consultative, broadcast with sufficient warning for their intention to be clear and the game is now on.

And it’s about time. As our focus is primarily about protecting and improving working conditions in local government, anything that removes poverty-struck councils which can’t afford to pay market rates to replace staff, or to have sufficient staff to properly cover leave and accommodate part-time returns for parents or to send people to training and all that, has to be a good thing.

The Premier’s bold boast at the LGNSW Annual Conference that many of the councillors wouldn’t be there next year may have got up their noses, but realistically, how many councillors do you know that you would actually employ yourself? Bugger all, or none?

We’ve all seen more than enough bad behaviour by councillors. Both generally and in the current extraordinary circumstances of unprecedented bullying and harassing general managers, senior staff and others doing no more than trying to get the job done, to think that a good dramatic culling of the talent is grossly overdue.

And Governments understand that with hindsight, they are more likely to regret not going hard enough than having gone too hard.

How will employees fare as the dross is culled?

 

Every employee in the industry should have a look at the employment protections provided in Part 6 of the Local Government Act. Here is a link, just to make it easier.

The heading of Part 6, “Arrangements for Council staff affected by the constitution, amalgamation or alteration of council areas”, should be enough. It’s clear that the protections are there for every non-senior staff employee, regardless of whether a Council is joined together with another Council, pieces of one Council are hived off to another, or where an entirely new council is constructed from parts of others or whatever.

The eight sections of Part 6 set out these arrangements.

s354B  Definitions
s354C No forced redundancy of affected staff members during proposal period
s354D Preservation of entitlements of staff members
s354E Certain increases or decreases in staff entitlements during proposal period not binding on transferee council without approval
s354F No forced redundancy of non-senior staff members for 3 years after transfer
s354G Lateral transfer of non-senior staff members
s354H External advertising not required in certain circumstances
s354I Limitations on transfer of work base of non-senior staff

For the time-poor, sections 354C and 354F are the critical ones that provide the protections against redundancy. Here they are:

354C No forced redundancy of affected staff members during proposal period

The employment of a member of staff of a council that is affected by a proposal (other than of a senior staff member) must not be terminated, without the staff member’s agreement, during the proposal period on the ground of redundancy.

354F No forced redundancy of non-senior staff members for 3 years after transfer

If a staff transfer occurs, the employment of:

(a) a transferred staff member, and

(b) in the case of a boundary alteration:

(i) a remaining staff member of the transferor council, and

(ii) an existing staff member of the transferee council, other than a senior staff member, must not be terminated, without the staff member’s agreement, within 3 years after the transfer day on the ground of redundancy arising from the staff transfer.

Once you’ve read those critical sections, you can choose one of the illustrations at the beginning of this article. Hint, choose Alfred E Neuman.

Unless you are a senior staff member, or a GM, and then you have a choice of five. (But we are doing something about ensuring that senior staff members effectively made redundant in any amalgamation process will have that 38 week payment taxed as a redundancy.)

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