PIA NSW did what?

Wow, that’s a headline you don’t see very often. Largely imperceptible, PIA NSW has historically provided representation consistent with the majority of their board members - a majority from the private sector and a couple of local government people tossed in for appearances - as they have restrained themselves to professional education, training and running a conference.

The last time we mentioned PIA NSW was when we thought it was largely moribund and lamented its failure to properly represent the interests of planners and those involved in development control in local government with their support for broader exempt and complying development. You know, employment generation for the private sector.

But, just when you thought we had all got over LGPA misrepresenting itself as an organisation with some expertise in looking after employees at work, PIA NSW has crashed into the vacuum created by their tactical withdrawal with some broad assertions about their capacity and interest to represent planners in the workplace.

Historically, depa has had a relationship with PIA NSW’s Local Government Network which began more than a decade ago when we signed an agreement with people in the LG Network that we would support each other - specifically, PIA would encourage their members to join depa and depa would encourage its members to join PIA.

It goes without saying that this was an arrangement that advantaged PIA more than it provided a benefit to us.

Around that time PIA NSW commissioned Sue Holliday to do a report on the toxic workplace of planners in local government. Fair enough, but in the end, so what? I can remember a PIA NSW conference at Wollongong where Sue and I conducted a session (chaired by Graham Gardener) about the toxic workplace and Graham asked for a show of hands of who was a member of PIA and who was a member of depa. If our members outnumbered those of PIA NSW tenfold, it would be an understatement. Virtually everyone was a member of ours, a handful were a member of PIA NSW and some of them were members of both. A couple were members of PIA NSW and not ours. Not ours yet, anyway.

PIA NSW had no capacity at all to do anything about the workplace, toxic or otherwise, and if anyone was going to do anything about it at all, it would be us. And, as you be aware, that’s precisely what we’ve done over the last decade or so - more than 10 years of industrial action and bans on miscreants in the industry attacking our members of the toxic workplace, culminating in our section 106 against the grumpy old bastards (and potentially crooks, depending on what the ICAC does with the current investigation) at Mid-Western.

You can check out how we responded in our May 2006 issue.

But last week, the new PIA NSW President, Marjorie Ferguson (ex-Canada Bay and a member of ours at the time) wrote to the general managers at all councils in New South Wales under the heading “NSW Boundaries Review”, asking that they pass on her correspondence to planners who work for them. She made a number of observations about PIA’s role which we believe to be presumptuous and misrepresentations. For example:

  • Support planners in terms of professional, career and personal circumstances as a consequence of workplace changes,
  • Advocate and provide support for the crucial role that planners can and should take on the change management processes, and
  • Provide information services to support planners’ understanding of the implications of new structures, positions etc. (The bold is our emphasis.)

We responded. Here is their letter and ours. You will see that our letter invited Marjorie to phone and talk to us with a request that she clarify to the same general managers that the workplace was our area and that there was no intention in her letter to suggest otherwise.

She did ring us to suggest that we were “old-fashioned”, “paranoid” and that it was a “free world” and that meant she could write whatever she liked and, when it was suggested that if she didn’t clarify things we would, because it was a “free world”, we could do that.

We reminded her on Tuesday this week that we did have a deadline to advise our members and she has chosen not to respond. So, it being a free world and all, we’re happy to call them clumsy in their communication, irrelevant to workplace employment issues and their letter has irritated more than it has drawn support.

Even a general manager has felt obliged to respond, telling them that he thought the employment stuff was depa and other industrial organisations and he’s been a general manager for 10 years and “where have you been all these years that I’ve been general manager at The Hills Shire Council?”

Well Marjorie, free world and all, what are you going to do about that?

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