The Federal Government will be doing a whole range of things that will affect us. One of those is taking steps to challenge the equal representational model on superannuation boards (that’s where, like Local Government Super, there are equal numbers from the employee and the employer side) and to require that at least a third of directors be “independent” which, in the language of the Coalition Government really means mates of theirs.

Superannuation funds operate under the Superannuation Industry Supervision Act, and that legislation obliges directors, whether they be employer or employee representatives to act independently.

This has nothing to do with the competence of the equal representational model, or trustees representing employees, but everything to do with the historic resentment, antagonism and hostility by the Coalition to the introduction of compulsory superannuation, the proliferation and success of industry superannuation funds and all that money being managed by people other than their Tory mates in the banks and insurance companies.

If this story interest you, check out Robbo’s Pearls.

In 2012 LGS was rated AAA and the leading fund internationally with its investment strategies in anticipation of a low carbon future pressure for the reduction of emissions and proper pricing mechanisms on both emissions and carbon assets like coal.

The 2013 Asset Owners Disclosure Project index has just been released in New York. In its second year internationally it includes a significant number of huge international pension and superannuation funds, some of which believe themselves to be at the forefront of low-carbon investing. Investment strategies are all about future risks, the science is in, everyone acknowledges that emissions have to be reduced and that companies need to be valued properly based on their emissions and how they price carbon assets like coal, for example, which may never, ever be dug up. 

The AODP ranked the world’s 1000 largest asset owners as part of The Climate Institute report. Here is how it was reported today in InvestorDaily.

LGS remains AAA rated and ranked number one in Australia but was pipped for the top-rated fund in the world by fund in the UK with a special focus on the environment.

Superannuation is full of pretenders and poseurs about what funds are doing on sustainable investment and the risks of carbon, but LGS has the evidence that it is number one in Australia.

We name the worst councils

It’s one of depa’s core values that people should get what they deserve.

Nothing exemplifies this more than our annual HR Awards. Described last year as allowing members and others to screen prospective employers and intended to identify bullying, boofheadedness, infamy, incompetence, duplicity, opacity, hypocrisy and general nastiness, we should really stop beating around the bush and say what we mean.

Like the boring bit in the Academy Awards when someone has to read out how the voting and the auditing of the voting process operates, everything needs good governance and we need to be as transparent as anyone else. Sometimes, more so.

Our diversified Panel judges folly and infamy across the industry without fear or favour, in a reasoned, disciplined, rational, debated and almost scientific way.

Bankstown won it in 2009 and, very slow to learn, also won it in 2010. They have made some changes (including one big one) and have learned from the experience. Greater (sic) Taree won it in 2011 but hasn’t been a contender since even though too many good employees voted with their feet and went elsewhere. Lismore won in 2012 and the GM at Lismore bit the bullet, immediately fixed the then current dispute (and was properly recognised by us for doing so in the January depanews) and then made structural changes in HR and resolved the problem. Well done and good riddance, respectively.

There are some councils knocking on the door of nomination who don’t get nominated in the 2013 awards but have good prospects for the future. Warringah doesn’t understand its Award obligations on how the consultative committee operates and thinks the consultative committee operates just like other Council committees - which, of course, it doesn’t. Council committees are established and get their authority by delegation from the Council under the Local Government Act and the Consultative Committee doesn’t. The Consultative Committee is established under the Local Government State Award and gets its authority from the Award, and the Industrial Relations Act under which the Award is made. So, it’s not appropriate to throw a union delegate out of the consultative committee if an issue is to be debated affecting that employee. We’ll fix that next year.

And Eurobodalla really needs to have someone read the Award and understand it. The GM and the HR Manager for a start. Next year, perhaps.

2013 has thrown up a whole range of new contenders. Thrown up, both metaphorically and literally and a review of depaNews over the year presents our worthy candidates in chronological order.

Ooooooh, the developers aren’t happy now, are they.

In August 2012 depaNews we criticised the possibilities illustrated on page 57 of the Green Paper for letting developers file applications that fell well, well outside the boundaries of any planning instrument. Nearly everyone else in the world was doing similarly.

In June 2013 (effectively our White Paper submission) we argued that certainty for developers meant uncertainty for everyone else, as protection and checks and balances are removed. The only people who weren’t saying that were the developers and their lobby groups - clearly because they preferred to sit quietly and smugly for fear of revealing their excitement.

The risks of code assessment and the fundamentally hazardous planning system that the inappropriately named Brad Hazzard (and we were not fooled by the two zeds) was pressing was met with overwhelming community opposition - as well as from Local Government NSW and planners in the industry who understand that certainty for developers means trouble for everyone else.

Fairfield Council's GM and three Executive Directors
Fairfield Council's GM and three Executive Directors

Fairfield City Council has now adopted policy and procedures to complement the Code of Conduct and regulate contact between councillors and staff. Pressed by the three unions as a result of the fiasco suspending two innocent employees for 12 weeks, the Council reversed the decision they had taken when the Division of Local Government recommended that they develop policy and procedures in common with more than 80% of councils in their Better Councils Program.

No wonder no one takes the DLG seriously, when they can make a recommendation to introduce a policy and the Council can just refuse. Anyway, they didn’t refuse our request.

This process requires that both the GM (known as City Manager at Fairfield) and the council sign off on the policy and procedures.

Ordinarily, Fairfield is very good at consulting with the Consultative Committee whenever a policy is developed that has an effect on staff. But not on this occasion. The Council just refused point blank.

Off and Running

LGNSW has provided the three unions party to this State Award a log of 44 claims - some of them supportable, some of them where we could be open-minded and some of them which should only be rejected. For example, we will reject the claim to exempt increase costs arising from legislative changes (like FBT, for example) from the 10% maximum leaseback fee, the claim to allow a Council to determine the size and composition of their consultative committee, the claim to introduce a discretion to ignore any or all of the functions of the consultative committee, and the claim to consider superannuation increases in any pay increase - just like the NSW Government wants to do to its employees.

The USU has 80 claims and the LGEA has 21.

Usually we restrict ourselves to 8 or 10, but on this occasion we have 24. Here is a link to our Log of Claims, in the order of the clauses in the Award we would like to amend and where there are no appropriate clauses, three additional claims at the end.

As a summary, we have claimed:

  1. commitment by the parties to “ensure and facilitate” flexibility for work and family responsibilities

  2. 3.25% pay increases to continue

  3. oblige councils which can’t attract suitably qualified staff to incorporate a market component in the salary system to allow them to do so

  4. oblige councils to make available access to bonus payments or other opportunities for employees who have progressed to the maximum for their position.

  5. oblige councils to make deductions from pay as authorised by the employee

  6. oblige councils to pay for and provide leave for accreditation under the BPB for employees on extended leave - especially on maternity leave

  7. oblige councils to consult on leaseback changes “before any definite decision is made to introduce any changes”

  8. ensure the Award is complied with by providing Union Picnic Day for union members only and if a council wants to provide an over award entitlement to an additional day off, then it should be provided to all employees

Wouldn’t it be nice to look at our national political leadership and embrace them all as useful role models in life for their ethical and principled behaviour, good values and respect for the planet.

The recent revelations about Federal politicians and their travel and expenses have to be a new low.  There’s not much to admire in a group of people regarding travel expenses as an unregulated bucket of cash from which the most dubious of claims can be met, no questions asked, and if you’ve “misunderstood” the blatantly clear guidelines, instead of being charged with fraud, you can pay it back.

Attending weddings, flying from Perth to inspect your investment property in Cairns, extravagant bookshelves and, in the Prime Minister’s case, a string of social and sporting events all allowed inappropriate claims to be made and paid. Strenuous denials of having done anything wrong but then monies paid back as if that means that the claimant didn’t do the wrong thing in the first place. Absolution for past sins, as the PM might put it, but instead he would rather describe it as confusion or imprecision in the guidelines.

If you are going to pick up some aspect of a politician’s behaviour and use it at work, don’t use this example. If you fiddle your travel expenses or claim reimbursement of expenses that don’t come with a bull’s roar of being business-related, a Council won’t let you claim ignorance or confusion and they won’t accept that offering to pay it back, clears the slate.

From 2005 to 2010, 56 politicians found themselves having to pay back 136 expenses wrongly claimed.

They get away with it because we don’t expect much of them but your employer expects much more of you. That’s not really how it should be, when you think of it, because if it Federal Parliament is full of dodgy politicians fiddling their expenses, that is pretty dispiriting.

And even the PM, fresh from his successful election campaign about restoring trust in government was a major offender. He repaid $9397.42 while promoting his book Battlelines and has steadfastly denied wrongly claiming the expenses, even though he repaid them. Sprung by the ABC TV program The Drum in 2010 Mr Abbott denied any wrongdoing and any wrongful claiming of travel expenses but when the finance department found the expense claim was “incorrect”, the money was repaid.

“What, me worry?” won’t work if you get sprung doing this at work. Don’t do it, if the guidelines are unclear, get it cleared beforehand. 

Here we go again. The current Local Government State Award was made in 2010 to operate until 1 July 2014. This doesn’t prevent the parties to the Award, LGNSW and the three unions, from negotiating early in expectation that they can be agreement reached to operate from 1 July and discussions will begin in November.

The State Award was originally made late in 1991 to operate from 1992 and each time it has been replaced with a new Award, the new Award has been made by agreement. Sometimes there are a couple of issues that are hard or impossible to reach agreement on towards the end of negotiations where the assistance of the Industrial Relations Commission is requested – like last time when the employers would not agree to a leave reserved provision to allow us to pursue some form of an allowance for the implications of accreditation by the BPB, when implications became clear. On that occasion the Commission recommended that the leave reserved provision be inserted and this was agreed.

Clearly both the employers and the unions for the last two decades have accepted that the basic Award needs little more than a spring clean and tidy up, some clarification of any confusing wording, adjustments to clauses which have been the subject of disputes during the life of the Award and where better clarity would help and where particular industrial standards have been set by industrial tribunals which need to find their way into the Award.

The Committee of Management will be developing a log of claims for us to press in the negotiations leading up to 1 July 2014. We invite suggestions about how the Award should change. What are the areas of the Award that you think need to change?

Clearly we will be defending the good clauses from the 2010 Award (like the prohibition of term contracts and the protections on the leaseback cars, for example) but here is an opportunity to send us your ideas.

The Committee of Management next meets on 7 November. If you have any suggestions about what should be included in our log of claims, email them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  by Friday 1 November.

This is the heading from Investor Strategy on Monday breaking the news to the finance and superannuation industry that I had announced my resignation as a director on the LGS Board after 16 years. Over that time LGS has become Australia’s foremost sustainable superannuation fund, the winner of many accolades for responsible investment and the top ranked international fund in the Asset Owners Disclosure Project in 2010 for its responsible management of carbon risk and alternative investment.

16 years is quite enough and the Committee of Management is more than happy to see me back working full-time on union business. More time for Fairfield, and others.

As one of the three union shareholders, depa is able to nominate a director and the Committee of Management resolved to appoint Joanne Davison, a highly respected finance professional with an interest in doing more about sustainable and responsible investment, as my successor. Joanne will continue to advocate strongly for member interests on the Board and LGS’ sustainable values and initiatives.

Self-effacing as I am, I won’t browbeat you about the achievements over that period of time but I am proud to have written the report to the Board in 2000 that meant LGS was the first superannuation fund in Australia to resolve never to own tobacco shares. When asked why LGS had done it, the Chief Investment Officer of the time responded that it had been done “to appease a zealot on the Board.” Happy to be a zealot to make changes for the better.

That’s ancient history now but from it developed a broader approach to responsible investment and innumerable awards and acknowledgement, including:

  • SuperRatings Infinity Awards 2010 and 2011
  • Money Magazine Best Green Super Fund 2011 and 2012
  • NSW Government Green Globe Awards 2011 and in 2012 the Energy Award and Climate Change Leadership Award
  • Sustainable Super fund of the Year Award 2010 - Ethical Investor
  • Asset Owners Disclosure Project 2009 and 2010 ranked number one in Australia
  • Asset Owners Disclosure Project 2012 ranked Number 1 in the world of 300 pension/superannuation funds
  • Numerous property awards including a Property Council of Australia Award 2012 for the best sustainable development of an existing building in Sydney's Sussex Street
  • 40% reduction in energy use since 2009 across the entire property portfolio, a property in North Sydney is operating with Trigeneration and Leichardt's Market Place has reduced its energy by 50% since 2009

The full article from Investor Strategy News and the unedited announcement is here. While the news has been broadcast in other publications, no-one else was willing to publish the unedited version.

Members’ ban helps to resolve Fairfield’s predicament

Sometimes organisations with ineffective management need the employees themselves to do the things that management seems incapable of doing.

Last month we revealed the disgraceful exercise of suspending two innocent members which, in turn, exposed a long history of unacceptable councillor/staff contact. We provided 10 examples of unacceptable contact and clearly neither the GM, the directors, the Manager Governance, the Public Officer, nor HR were aware of any of them. Ignorance isn’t always bliss.

No-one wants to look like the Bishop of Maitland when the hard questions are asked.

There are a number of the advantages of having a policy to regulate councillor/staff contact which requires requests for the contact to go to the GM.  The Division of Local Government recommends to councils that don’t have a policy or procedures identified and signed off by the GM and the Council that they should do so as a matter of priority. Like they did at Fairfield in April this year and which the Council refused.

Requiring a written request to the GM will weed out a lot of requests. It would be hard for a councillor to request contact because he wanted to squeeze an employee into a more lenient approach, or not proceeding with a fine, or tolerating illegal building or poor fire safety or at risk food premises.

More importantly, the GM would have an idea of how many requests are made, what sort of things are being requested and, in a better practice policy, the GM could decide whether the contact be provided or not. It’s all part of being the GM, responsible for the day-to-day running of the Council and the management of staff.

But if you are a GM who wants to remain blissfully ignorant of your councillors approaching staff, pressuring or encouraging them to do things they would not otherwise do, then not having a policy and procedures would be perfect. But perfect to cocoon a GM who doesn’t want to see or hear evil, but bad governance, acknowledged to be poor practice in local government and a failure to do the job properly.

But you would have thought, wouldn’t you, that when the DLG recommends that the Council adopt a policy as a matter of priority and when we expose the extent of unacceptable councillor/staff contact, and we get them thinking about reviewing their rejection of the DLG recommendation, that they would start to understand why a policy is necessary. Even councillors. Even the Mayor.

On 23 August in the Industrial Relations Commission, the Council committed to arranging a Councillor Workshop to consider the issue with an expectation that any changes to current arrangements would be recommended to a meeting of the Council on 24 September. The Council that day also agreed to keep the three unions in the loop and to consult as this process involved. But while there was a presentation to the Councillor Workshop, no one thought it appropriate to provide that presentation to the unions so that we knew what was happening.

The only advice we received was after we had already raised an issue about councillor contact with the GM by email. So a response to our request, and not all consistent with keeping people in the loop.

But it could not have been a very effective learning experience for the councillors when only two days after the workshop, a member of ours, our delegate no less, Stewart Rodham, was directed to attend a meeting in the Mayor’s Office. Immediately.

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. 

Everyone celebrates the innocent verdict - except a bastard or two

Sack this council – there is nothing fair about Fairfield

Many members will know John Vuletich and Stephen Poulter. John is the Manager of the Building Control Branch and after 39 years working at Fairfield can properly be described as having given his life to the Council. Stephen is the Coordinator - Fire and Building Regulation and has been there 10 years.

Both are professionally well regarded across the industry, hard-working, supported by their workmates and colleagues, have never had an issue in their employment and they work in a toxic culture where there is no real control over councillors getting down and dirty in operational matters that are none of their responsibility.

Now, two reports, establish that they are innocent.

Fairfield has always taken the view that employees involved in development should do “whatever it takes” to assist applicants to get an application across the line and to ensure final compliance with the conditions of consent. This has been the culture since Fairfield had dirt roads. It’s notorious.

That culture has tolerated the inappropriate involvement of councillors in operational matters. Despite that being clearly prohibited since the 1993 Act - and prohibited even more so by a succession of Codes of Conduct prepared by the Division of Local Government. But the culture seemed to work okay until the politics got in the way and the politicians wanted to nail another politician, and if that meant collateral damage to employees, so be it. Even loyal and well respected employees like John and Stephen.

Both were suspended in May in a vindictive and harassing action with allegations of “gross incompetence”. Both were found innocent of the charges by the Council’s own independent Investigator but were suspended, all up, for 15 weeks.

The concept of an employer having an obligation to provide a relationship of “confidence and trust” to employees has developed recently in the UK and is now developing in Australia. A fabulous coincidence when we look at how employees sometimes get treated (and not just at Fairfield) and a precedent established by the full Court that will have significant ramifications for how employers behave.

depa is not the only union in the industry seeking advice from lawyers on the application of the principles of the judgment for councils, like Fairfield, where members have been treated in a way that doesn’t come within a bull’s-roar of a relationship founded on “confidence and trust”. It’s all going to be about confidence and trust now.

More later.

It’s fairly predictable that the increasing financial pressure on Councils, the likelihood of a serious shakeup leading to amalgamations and other arrangements, and even the appointment of new senior staff and general managers will provide a sharpened focus on making sure that people employed by councils are doing what they’re paid for.

There has been an increase in the performance management of our members over recent months, so it’s timely to say something about job security and how to avoid getting sacked.

It’s not very complicated. The assumption in the employment relationship is that the Council will employ people to do the job competently with reasonable expectations about how much work they do, and how well they do it.

Apart from general managers and other senior staff under the dreadful DLG Standard Contract, no-one ever gets sacked for doing the job properly. But employees can find themselves being performance managed for a variety of reasons and they can include being lethargic, hopeless managers of time and process, failing to accept their accountability and that some things are their responsibility, imprecise, slack on making sure documents are right, lazy and a whole range of other issues. We’ve had members asleep at their desks, habitually and chronically unpunctual, unreliable, bullying etc etc.

When a Council begins a performance management process they do so with the expectation that the employee’s performance improves. It’s easier for the Council to have employees performing competently than it is to keep performance managing people who are not. Existing employees have an advantage over an unknown replacement because they are familiar with the area, often have considerable corporate knowledge, understand the values of the organisation, and so on.

No one likes sacking people, even people who are hopeless. Sorry about that, but there are some. Clearly not our members, of course.

If He Wins You Lose

There have been times in Australian politics where people actually liked political leaders. Sometimes even loved them.

People loved Gough, thought Hawke could walk on water and even loved Keating, people liked Malcolm Fraser more after he got out of politics, as they did John Hewson who became a climate change warrior because he thought it was smart economically to move quickly to a low carbon economy, people didn’t really like John Howard and the extent of that dislike was clear when he became only the second Prime Minister to lose his own seat at the same time his government was defeated in an election but really, no one has liked anyone much from the major parties since.

At the same time that we struggled to find political leaders we liked, the intellectual level of political debate collapsed. Focus groups, cheap shots, fear mongering, a lack of vision, climate change is either “the greatest moral challenge of our generation” or its “crap”, it’s all very, very disappointing and depressing. We are a smart, multicultural and dynamic nation, we really deserve better. We’re even crap at sport now, so we don’t have international sporting success to distract us from the uninspiring political misery at home

But we know that a Coalition government is always going to be more hostile to employees and your rights at work. We know that WorkChoices, that creature of the Howard Government, opened the floodgates to individual contracts, and reduced rights to fight unfair dismissal and significantly reduce rights generally. In the current debate about industrial relations, the Coalition is quite open that they want to swing back the pendulum away from employee rights to increased rights from employers.

Increased rights for employers, means trouble for you.

The illustration in this article comes from UnionNSW’s election campaign, we are an affiliate, as are all New South Wales unions and it does sum up the difference between Labor and the Coalition on your rights at work.

Still, we are not a political organisation, we don’t favour either or any side as a matter of policy and we are clearly quite happy to attack planning ministers and Governments of either persuasion. But, when you make up your mind about what to do on the 7 September, if issues like climate change, economic management, refugee policy, or even gay marriage aren’t enough for you to decide, think about how it might affect you at work.

Planning and Infrastructure Director-General Sam Haddad last week conceded that the White Paper process has “gone further than the government intended” in reducing the community’s ability to fight bad decisions.

He also conceded that Department of Planning staff may have unintentionally spread “inaccurate or misleading information” about the changes.

What a mess. Originally easily characterised as dismantling the checks and balances of the current system to provide free kicks to developers, this most recent confession can only confirm the worst.

It seemed pretty obvious right from the start that the Government was trying fool the communities of New South Wales by hiding the slashing and burning behind a boast of a more consultative process which would allow greater input at the beginning - so that everyone had an opportunity to be involved in the process of what could be built and where.

But the dreaded page 57 of the White Paper gave it all away by providing an illustration that showed that applications that didn’t come within a bull’s roar of the locally arrived at development instrument, could still be assessed on a merit basis by a Council, or a planning committee or some other faceless people.

Why bother, unless all you’re trying to do is to hide that the real intention was to abandon historic protection of heritage areas; misrepresent that all planning would have biodiversity at its core, when it did no such thing; and quash effective and consultative town planning practices and set up a free for all where developers could build anything, anywhere they wanted?

While Councils (and many of you in developing these documents) have identified fundamental flaws in the overriding strategy as well as the details of the legislation, it fell to the Better Planning Network to squeeze the confessions from Director-General Sam Haddad. A voluntary organisation with a tiny core of activists, but more than 400 affiliated community groups, had nailed the Government on something when no one else had been able to land a blow.

But we know, because members tell us about their experience in discussing these things with officials of the Department of Planning (probably including those whom Sam agrees may have unintentionally spread inaccurate or misleading information) that local government concerns and observations about the effect of the White Paper have gone right over the heads of planning bureaucrats.

The BPN also nailed the Director-General on their claim that “ecologically sustainable development” was enshrined in the draft legislation when, Haddad subsequently agreed, these principles were not “expressly referred to” in the bill. The Sydney Morning Herald quotes Sam as describing an earlier departmental response to the contrary as “regrettable”. Regrettable has to be the biggest understatement. And similar allegations can be made about the way they have incorrectly responded on the protection of heritage and the role of the Heritage Council.

Well, it is a mess and the whole fiasco should be put on hold and they should start again.

We like the Better Planning Network. A tiny core of activists has blitzed the Government and the media and identified the fundamental flaws in a way that Councils couldn’t. After all, the Government already thinks the councils only respond to the White Paper to protect their own turf, so why would they listen to them?

Here is a link to Sam’s confession and here is a link to a general article about the fiasco in the Herald last weekend.

And everyone should remember that while you might be local government employees you are also citizens and residents and have an interest in making sure that some boofhead, money-hungry developer doesn’t build some monstrosity next door to you.

The Committee of Management resolved on Friday last week to forward to you all a link to the BPN petition. Here it is, print it, get it signed and get it in ASAP.

The Council might not have turned on lunch, or even morning tea (like councils have for previous victors) but the Mayor of North Sydney Councillor Julie Gibson last week presented the 2013 depa Cup to the North Sydney team which won the depa cup on Union Picnic Day Golf Day on Friday 8 March.

The only team member not present was Alex Williams on holidays in Cuba.

Pictured above left to right, are Brett Maina, Warwick Wynn, Mayor Julie Gibson and Joseph Hill outside North Sydney’s office in Miller Street.

The depa golf day will be held again at Blackheath on Friday 14 March.

There is never a shortage of poor HR decisions in local government. It’s amazing the number of miscreants, sociopaths, people-haters and venal simpletons who find their way into HR and management councils. Every year there is always a handful of councils that contest our prestigious Worst HR in Local Government Award, traditionally announced in our December issue.

And while things might happen during the year which give a clear indication that one Council may simply edge out the rest, is unusual to have a hot favourite emerge only halfway through the year.

How about this Council (which will remain nameless until the bookies properly set the odds) as an early favourite:

  • Fought the LGEA by contesting their claim that 18 engineers should get the Civil Liability Allowance and when the Commission looked at it, the 18 got it! And they spent more than $50,000 in legal costs to fight it.
  • A Director of Corporate Services with anger management issues who shouted at representatives of the unions at a Consultative Committee meeting telling them that they knew nothing about industrial relations, he was the only expert because he’d done it for five years (when there were delegates there who had done it for decades) and when his boorish and boof-headed behaviour found the Council in the Commission and he was caught out, “apologized” in a smug and self-important email that satisfied no-one and, of course, wasn’t game to turn up in the Commission himself anyway.
  • As part of a restructure made a couple of USU members redundant and then tried to cheat them out of their 1 July Award pay increase. Unsuccessfully, of course.
  • One of the only councils in NSW to not have a policy regulating contact between councillors and staff when implicit in the Code of Conduct is that Councillor contact should only happen consistent with the policy. Maybe the only Council. Does any other Council not have a policy?
  • Suspend two employees, have an “independent” investigation conducted which, when it didn’t provide the result they wanted, referred it to a barrister for review to try to unpick it to set it aside. Their independent investigation with their investigator, should be enough.

And that’s just for starters. More next month.

Don’t laugh, this is precisely what the White Paper can do to you. In depaNews in August we ran with the theme that the new planning system was all about certainty for developers and the removal of protection and checks and balances for everyone else. But that’s what everyone said. Apart from the developers and their lobby groups, who sat quietly and smugly for fear of revealing their excitement.

The Green Paper released last year was an opportunity for a new Government to step aside from the sycophantic kowtowing to developers, the tawdry partiality and the political favouritism that had been the hallmark of the latter years of the previous Government. One of the O’Farrell Government’s first initiatives in planning, to repeal the infamous Part 3A, was welcomed as a qualitative change - restoring the primary role of local government in establishing planning instruments and managing development within the terms of those local plans, and not having the big jobs ripped from their grasp.

But the Green Paper didn’t deliver on restoring planning control to local government and preserving checks and balances for the community. It pushed the removal of both public consultation and input into individual applications and the need for a re-zoning for a development that didn’t comply with the planning instrument. As you all know, something that doesn’t comply with the planning instrument faces checks and balances to require a Council to consider a rezoning application to allow it. And a rezoning application allows the community to have a say.

But the Green Paper made it abundantly clear that the current system didn’t provide the sort of certainty that developers wanted. As expected, responses to the Green Paper from the community and local government were overwhelmingly antagonistic - and who would have thought otherwise? Everyone has a legitimate interest in what happens where they choose to live. Or to work.

There is nothing wrong with the concept of people wanting to look after their local area. The last refuge of the developer wanting to create something dreadful is sneering “NIMBYism”, and thereby trivialising the legitimacy of having an interest in your own local area, where you choose to live, have families and educate them, and establish a good quality life.

Or a Government intent on giving developers a free kick.

1997 vs 2013

Planning Minister Brad Hazzard MP is responsible for all of this. The Minister has been around a long time and watched Labor, with Minister Craig Knowles, crash through and reduce community consultation and environmental protections through the Environmental Planning and Assessment (Amendment) Bill 1997. You know, the piece of legislation which, amongst other things, introduced exempt and complying development and fostered private certifiers.

This is the legislation that depa and a selection of other local government and environmental groups fought so vigourously and, amongst other things, resulted in us being pilloried by Minister Knowles in his Second Reading speech on 15 October 1997 - claiming that our concerns that the White Paper “reforms would diminish opportunities for public participation and objection and would reduce the role of local government” were both “wrong and misrepresent the facts.” Gee Craig, history showed we were right.

But while we have had a consistent response to a cascade of reforming processes, others haven’t. Like Brad, for example. Sometimes it’s good to have a mind like a steel trap and lurking in our office was an extract from Hansard on 17 October 1997. Just sitting quietly and waiting for its moment in the sun. You can see the extract here, but here are some things Mr Hazzard said, and probably wishes he hadn’t:

  • The Minister the Urban Affairs and Planning would be concerned to find that the development next door to him has been constructed which he wished he had known was going to be built so that he could have some say in it. That is a key issue in respect of this legislation. It is about the community’s right to know what is happening in the local area.
  • There has to be more that satisfies local residents that they will have an ongoing say such that they can approve or not approve of a particular development on their very boundary.
  • The single biggest challenge for New South Wales is to get the planning right, such that our environment is protected.
  • The environment has to be an absolute priority.
  • We also want to ensure that the environment is given priority. What is the point in having jobs and development if people do not have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink water or to use in myriad other ways?
  • I was extremely disappointed that the Minister did not take into account community concern and environmental concern.
  • They are good. They are the protectors of the environment of New South Wales - an observation in relation to the Total Environment Centre and the Nature Conservation Council and we can’t wait to see what those two bodies say.
  • The Minister should hang his head in shame. He should have been embarrassed to introduce this legislation into this House.
  • But the legislation will not guarantee that any development undertaken by the Minister’s next-door neighbour will suit him. In effect, the Minister has killed community consultation.
  • When a private certifier is ticking off the boxes for some development next door to the Minister, the Minister will acknowledge that he got it wrong.
  • We will be out in the community with environmental groups making sure the world knows that the Carr Government has failed in appropriately marrying environmental protection with development.

Ooooh Minister, that’s a bit embarrassing. We like the old Brad and to use another of his quotes in that debate where he was referring to Craig Knowles, “the Minister is not a bad bloke, but he has simply got this legislation wrong”.

What is it about politicians? How can they get it right in 1997 and so obviously get it wrong in 2013? We challenge the Minister, what do you really think, what you said in 1997 or what you are saying now?

If you changed your mind, and the environment, and the community, and the rights of neighbours are now less important, please explain. We will publish your response unedited.

We do, however, reserve our rights on illustrating it.

While it’s normally pretty easy to work out if you are in love, it’s not quite so easy to work out when you’re not and to end the relationship. Is it just part of the inevitable ebb and flow, a reaction to the reality of being together all the time and the problems jointly faced and no-one remembering to put the garbage out, a reasonable reaction, or an overreaction to a lovers’ spat? Some people find it harder than others.

Famously, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor married twice - the second time only 16 months after their first divorce. Now Nambucca has joined the ranks of those who remarry (metaphorically speaking, of course) by realising they really were in love with the three director structure that they abolished and replaced with a two director model in 2012 and after an unsatisfactory affair, they want their first love back - resolving 16 months after killing off the three director structure that they want it back.

The 2012 restructure was messy and embarrassing. The Council is hiding the cost of the exercise, refusing to disclose what it cost to make employees redundant. They also refuse to do the calculations that could be made to put a cost on the loss of a competent and experienced Manager Building, who couldn’t cope any longer and fled to Queensland. And, during the course of Nambucca’s affair with a combined corporate services/environment and planning directorship run by the previous director of environment and planning, now they’ve lost that competent and highly-regarded employee to Kyogle. How do you put a cost on this loss?

Not only was the 2012 restructure poorly conceived and planned and reliant upon keeping a GM with planning qualifications to take some of those responsibilities, but only two months after the new structure was implemented, more fiddling took place that made redundant another of our members. How many goes at this do they need? Will the last person out please turn off the lights.

Nambucca is one of the councils identified by both the TCorp analysis and by the Independent Review Panel as being “Weak or Very Weak” and with a “Negative Outlook” where the Panel has called for medium-and long-term financial strategies, amongst other things, to get them out of trouble.

Clearly there’s not much in the way of medium or long term strategies evident here. If Nambucca can’t get its act together on its structure, if it squanders public moneys on losing good staff for the folly of a structure which lasts only a little over a year, then there are bigger questions to ask.  

The Local Government Acts Taskforce released a Discussion Paper on 4 April 2013 and the Independent Local Government Review Panel released their “Future Directions for NSW Local Government: 20 Essential Steps” on 24 April.

Clearly the more significant report is that of the Independent Review Panel because the Panel has produced a well-reasoned, thorough, exhaustive and wide-ranging series of recommendations to allow local government to develop and prosper over the next 25 years.

The Panel provided a presentation to the unions and LGNSW prior to the public release of their Future Directions paper and their 20 Essential Steps build on the financial analysis announced in the previous fortnight by TCorp which showed “a disturbing picture of a local government system facing major financial problems with apparently little awareness of just how serious the situation has become”. How embarrassing is that? “Little awareness of how serious the situation has become” is beyond damning. 70 councils of 153 expected by TCorp to be financially at risk within three years. Uh oh …


Local Government Super, like all funds, requires that you make a binding nomination for who gets your death benefit. Ordinarily, in the absence of a will or a binding nomination to the fund, it goes to the spouse.

But LGS finds that there are far too many members of the fund who die without a binding nomination and still have a legally married spouse even though they may have fled that hideous and miserable relationship years ago and are happily entranced with a new partner and a new family.

That becomes a significant problem because, believe it or not, (and no observations here about Nambucca) there are some ex spouses and partners who love the idea of getting their hands on your money when you are dead.

You can make a binding death nomination by going to the LGS site on here.

Okay, so Confucius was obsessed with all the little children being boys, but you know what we mean. We don’t want to quibble but surely one of the most beautiful sights in the world is an employer making sure that they provide flexible working arrangements to allow a parent to properly show their kids the way.

We have lots and lots of enquiries from parents (usually mothers) returning to work after parental leave and finding resistance from their Council - whether that be flexible arrangements generally, or part-time arrangements, or starting and finishing time, or flexible or inflexible lunch breaks that allow them to be comfortable and confident that they are properly discharging their obligations as a parent at the same time as getting back in harness at the Council.

The State Award in clause 2 Statement of Intent encourages councils to “ensure flexibility for work and family responsibilities” but too often do we see short-sighted managers and HR challenging child care arrangements, being pretty inflexible about what constitutes flexibility, having unimaginative rules about minimum lunch breaks or inflexible rules about how many days an employer should work to be full time.

Too many councils scared of “establishing a precedent” when a precedent to provide, for example, full-time hours over four days is worthy only of applause and recognition.

If you are a parent wanting more flexible arrangements, or a parent who is currently part-time that wants to return to full-time work and finding a lack of cooperation and sympathy, we can help.

Many, many years ago, Ballina achieved some notoriety in the industry when some wag made a pineapple cake to farewell a colleague. But not just any pineapple cake, as well as being quite delicious, it also made everyone feel remarkably good that afternoon.

Yes, the pineapple cake had been enhanced with some local herbs. Illegal herbs, of course.

But the gig was up because people thinking their work was hilarious that afternoon was a decidedly uncommon sight at Ballina - where the staff was used to working under- staffed and often under-appreciated.

We mentioned in our special HR Award issue in December that there must have been something in the water up the far North coast because there had been a bit of a frenzy amongst some general managers about the nine day fortnight. Maybe they thought the nine day fortnight, like daylight saving, would fade the curtains. Still, out of the pineapple cake and into the water maybe - paranoia can be a side-effect …

Now, Ballina GM Paul Hickey is not your pineapple cake kind of bloke. Busy heading up a Council that struggles to make ends meet, he is perfectly placed as a bean counter to pursue those wasted dollars. He is also nine day fortnight phobic, a condition not treatable by local illegal medication or, it seems, by logic or commonsense.

Over the past few months we have had four issues with Ballina.

First, he unsuccessfully tried to strip a nine day fortnight arrangement from the building surveyors’ team. The problem was that in his memo terminating the deal he conceded “that each of you has made the current flexible working arrangement work and I do appreciate your efforts in this regard.” Unusual, to say the least, to try to remove something when you concede that it’s working but he wanted to do it because of the “significant morale and equity issue” of others not having the arrangement. And as every short-sighted manager knows, if you have different employment conditions, the best way to create the same arrangement for everyone is to move everyone to the less preferred conditions to shut up those complaining.

He has now “temporarily” withdrawn the notice of termination.

Second, he made life hard for one of our members who is a parent with child care arrangements that could only really be satisfied if she worked a shorter day by taking a 30 minute, rather than one hour, lunch. Damn these mothers at work, they apparently have some rights this century! Then he let her take a 30 minute lunch.

Third, he made life hard for a member on maternity leave wanting to return to work under the nine day fortnight working agreement she had worked under for four years preceding the maternity leave – a formal Working Agreement, drafted by the Council, that provided it could only be terminated if “demonstrated that the customer service or operational requirements are not being achieved”.

The Council, having allowed the nine day fortnight to continue for four years was clearly not able to terminate it for these reasons and, after proceedings in the Industrial Relations Commission, accepted a recommendation of Deputy President Harrison for our member to return to work under the nine day fortnight for 6 months to determine whether there were any customer service or operational problems. Put up, or shut up, really.

Finally, he thought it made sense to remove the Christmas/New Year concession leave which the Council had provided every year, without fail, from at least the 1940s “to partly compensate administration, office and technical staff are unpaid overtime during the year.”

A dispute we filed was conciliated by Deputy President Harrison in Sydney on 7 March. The GM and HR Manager flew down for the day (when you are trying to save the cost of three days pay to the salaried staff, sometimes you have to spend some money to do that) and we found the GM's rationalisation of the decision confusing.

Again, he claimed there were people unhappy that they work longer for nothing than others (and they would rather get no days off at Christmas and New Year if that means those that don’t suck as hard miss out too), the Council had reduced income and needed to make some savings and there was an accountability issue about the equity of the three days and because it wasn’t three days off for the equivalent of three days worked, it was too imprecise.

The dispute resumes in Ballina on 8 May. Because we couldn’t understand the GM’s argument, we agreed that the Council would commit it to writing and Deputy President Harrison recommended that the Council and the unions “exchange information” to allow conciliation to better take place on 8 May. All we wanted was a series of dotpoints to better understand the decision and be able to focus in our response but what we’ve got so far is six affidavits from witnesses supporting the removal of the entitlement (including sadly from one of our members) and a 79 point submission by a Sydney barrister which the Council will rely on.

A bit “up yours” to us and the Commission because it means that they are ready to arbitrate if they don’t get what they want in the conciliation and that, to us, sounds like duress and intimidation.

But because the primary obligation under the Industrial Relations Act is to get the parties to reach agreement, we (and the other two unions in support) will do what was intended on 8 May and try to reach some agreement.

We hope commonsense can prevail. The GM is down three nil against us so far and, despite the six affidavits and 79 points from their barrister, he still hasn’t addressed why the Council thinks that it no longer needs to recognise those additional hours worked voluntarily like they have for the past, at least, 70 years. How much do you want for nothing, Paul?

Well, bring in the clowns, because it was the BPB itself, and not any of its staff, that was responsible for the contract requiring the identification by councils of the accredited certifier of a particular application.

No one really knew where the Building Professionals Amendment Regulation 2013 came from. Local Government NSW (the new name for the Local Government and Shires Association) didn’t know anything about it, neither did we, and neither, it seems, did anyone else.

Usually we would get a letter from the BPB advising us of initiatives that might have an impact on our members. This happens because the BPB understands that the overwhelming majority of accredited certifiers are working in local government and it makes sense to get depa into the tent rather than leave us outside. They did it on 19 March with an email to which was attached correspondence about proposed changes to CPD and the Code of Conduct, requesting our input, but for some reason they didn’t do it with the proposed legislative changes conveyed to everyone, without warning, in the BPB Bulletin of 14 March. Check it out yourself and make a submission – BPBulletin 22 March.

The Board thought it made sense to establish contractual arrangement between individual private certifiers and an applicant and a contractual arrangement also between “the employer of an accredited certifier” and an applicant.  At least we assume they thought it made sense, because no one has given us any information at all other than what was contained in the 14 March Bulletin.

The BPB has always operated under the illusion that you can create a level playing field on “certification” activities regardless of whether those functions are carried out by an accredited certifier operating alone, a certifier operating in one of the businesses providing the services, or a Council. But of course you can’t do that because the businesses providing the services are solely focused on those sort of services but councils are qualitatively different organisations with a scope and range of activities well beyond the limited role of those handful of businesses employing certifiers.

And no businesses employ the number of accredited employees that councils do - 23, for example, at Blacktown and a significant number of councils with more than 10. But none of those organisations were asked about the impact of requiring the identification of the name and accreditation number of any employee who is proposed, at the date of the contract, will carry out certification work under the contract”. They should be asked now.

This proposal affects all those councils which don’t provide one employee for the whole job and, given that the ICAC likes the idea that one person NOT carry out all the “certification work under the contract”, we are entitled to ask how much pineapple cake the Board had eaten that day? Something really mind-altering must’ve happened to come up with such a bureaucratically unworkable, time-wasting and frustrating initiative. And one where uncharacteristically the industry parties with an interest in the effective provision of these services were not consulted before the new clause 19A was introduced.

It’s almost like the Board wants to frustrate and distract local government rather than assist.

Neil Cocks is off on a secondment in the Department at the moment and the Acting Director of the BPB is a Dr Gabrielle Wallace. Apparently she has been a building surveyor somewhere or other over the years and we chased her up last week because we hadn’t heard anything back after our email exchange with Neil on 15 March. Here is her response:

From: Building Professionals Board [This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.]
Sent: Thursday, 4 April 2013 2:15 PM
To: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Subject: Written contracts

Dear Ian

As you noted in our discussion this morning, the last BPBulletin (26/2/13) contained information on the commencement of the EP&A Amendment Act 2012. It contained interim advice on written contracts, an information sheet and 2 Q&A papers.

The second Q&A paper has details pertaining specifically to councils. Please note there are 3 template contracts, including one for councils. Page 3 of the information sheet noted changes to section 73A of the EP&A Act and clause 19A of the BP Amendment Regulation 2013. The links to the legislation are available under More information on page 4 of the information sheet.

As discussed, we are shortly to release a third Q&A which should address further concerns.


Dr Gabrielle Wallace A /Director
Building Professionals Board
Ph:  02 9873 8543
Fax: 02 9873 8107

We know that many of you responded to our email telling us that we were right, how hopeless the BPB was and we should jam it right up them, but there is no substitute for the BPB being overwhelmed with your responses, rather than sending them to us. They think we are trouble anyway, so it’s better for  councils to be pursuing them about putting this regulation on hold until such time as there is an opportunity for the industry to discuss it with the BPB. Send responses to LG NSW as well.

19A should be amended to leave councils out entirely or to treat them differently.

And as much as we all would like to meet with them, on this occasion they should leave the pineapple cake at home.

Liverpool GM Farroq Portelli and Mayor Ned Mannoun

Liverpool GM Farooq Portelli and Mayor Ned Mannoun


It’s official: Liverpool Council treats everyone with contempt.

Contempt for their existing managers, contempt for their duties and obligations under the Local Government (State) Award, contempt for the unions asking for “all relevant information” and contempt for the processes of the Industrial Relations Commission.

LCC isn’t Liverpool City Council, it’s Liverpool Contemptuous Council.

This morning was the sixth occasion that the USU’s dispute about the restructure (joined enthusiastically by depa and the LGEA) was dealt with by the IRC and those six occasions were punctuated by a meeting of the parties in the offices of the LGSA. Fruitless, of course, someone wasn’t listening.

Clause 35 of the State Award creates significant duties and obligations for a Council in a restructure. People affected need to be told, as do the unions to which they belong, the parties are to meet as soon as possible, Council is obliged to provide “all relevant information” and the Council is even obliged to think about reconsidering.

The questions the unions were asking remain unanswered. The Council has not provided information like the individual salary ranges of the existing 23 manager positions, how many manager positions are merged to create the eight Group Managers and therefore it’s impossible to judge whether the “bigger jobs” created in the restructure are paid the same, more, or even less than the original positions. That sounds like relevant information.

And at no stage has the Council been prepared to say why it is critical to their vision for the future that the eight Group Managers, the third level of management in the organisation, need to be Senior Staff under the Local Government Act and, as a result of that, employed on term contracts.

It’s constantly being reinforced in the industry that the inadequate and inflexible Standard Contract for Senior Staff allows employees to be sacked without reason being given. A power misused by the Council at Camden late last year and last night, at Auburn. Two general managers doing the right thing and terminated under the terms of the contract without reason. The latest in a long tradition.

(And don’t, as an aside, expect that the Division of Local Government is going to do anything about it. They prefer to be spectators watching the infamy unfold at Camden and Auburn than actually doing something to prevent it. It’s beyond their own self-imposed restrictions.)

It seems a relatively simple question to ask “why?" the Council would exercise their discretion under section 332 of the Local Government Act to determine, in a decision unprecedented in the two decades since 1993 Act was made, to make the third level of management Senior Staff. After all, there are more and better opportunities for flexibility in remuneration and reward for performance, under the Award than the unimaginative and restrictive Standard Contract.

The DLG hates flexibility on remuneration because they think it’s “open slather” - based on an expectation that elected councillors regularly shower general managers and senior staff with largess and riches beyond their wildest dreams: an expectation which underpins their reactionary role but which would elicit only derision and laughter were they game to announce it to the industry.

But Liverpool refuses to say why. Given the opportunity on six occasions in the Commission, they only wanted to say they could, or the jobs were strategic, or something else which carefully avoided dealing with the complications which arise from making positions term contracts and removing the protections and safety of permanent on-going employment.

And GM Portelli insisted “I do not believe that employment under a term contract exposes people to a disadvantage”. Uh oh, there is increasing number of general managers in the industry who would happily tell him otherwise.

But while the GM may not have been game to disclose their real motivation in the Commission, Mayor Ned Mannoun was quite happy to do so - boasting what a progressive Council they were with their current restructure, but they’d been taken by the nasty unions to the Commission, at a Urban Taskforce Forum conducted in conjunction with the Daily Telegraph. Gee, developers and the Murdoch press - how could you lie down with that lot and get out without fleas?

But Councillor Mannoun, manning up to the job of seducing the developers (who he described as “the engine room of our economy”) answered the question “why?”

Because “it takes us a year to performance manage a staff member out of the workforce”.

First of all, this is factually incorrect. The Council is extremely good at performance managing people out of the workforce and, if there were an award across the industry for this process, the Manager of Ejection from the Workforce and Liverpool would win it.

But more importantly, doesn’t that just say it all?

It was precisely what the unions suspected. Term contracts allow good employees to be treated unfairly by not being offered a renewal, or by termination under the “for any other reason” provision with the payment of 38 weeks pay. And they allow an employer off the hook on any obligation to properly manage the performance of someone who isn’t up to scratch. And that’s neither responsible stewardship of public money, nor good public policy.

So we wrote to the Mayor congratulating him on being prepared to be so open and honest about the motivation underpinning the restructure and the placing of the third level of management on term contracts when representatives from the Council in the Commission were not quite so game. We invited him to come to the Commission on the next occasion, and tell the Commission that as well.

The Mayor said no.

So, if Farooq wants all of his strategic managers capable of being removed without notice, he’s got it. If he wants his entire Executive Team removable without proper process, capriciously or unfairly, he’s got that too. After all, if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for everyone. Or realistically, if it’s bad enough for him, it’s bad enough for them too. Funny thing to do with public money, though.

So, be warned. These Group Manager jobs are likely to be advertised on the weekend and only the overly self-confident, the deluded, and the risk takers need apply. For anyone suicidal and attracted to the scenario of creating a fuss and inviting the police to shoot them, this is the job for you.

Unfortunately in the Commission this morning Justice Staff refused to make two directions sought by depa and supported by the USU and the LGEA. He refused to direct that the Council provide comparisons of the existing rates for managers alongside the proposed new rates, so we could tell whether people can be paid fairly for these new and bigger jobs, and he refused to direct the attendance of the Mayor on the next occasion we fought this out to say what he is apparently only prepared to say while flattering and sucking up to developers.

Liverpool wants to get rid of people without fair process. The Council’s own external consultant found that the overwhelming emotion amongst the workforce was fear and now the Council can extend that emotion right through their Executive Team.

30 jobs spilled, third level managers on contract and GM Farooq Potelli refusing to listen

30 jobs spilled, third level managers on contract and GM Farooq Portelli refusing to listen



Not one Council has thought it made sense to introduce the designation of Senior Staff into the third level of management in the 20 years since the Local Government Act gave councils the power to designate positions as Senior Staff. Whether by convention or simply common sense, many councils have chosen not to have any Senior Staff positions other than the GM and none of them have  contemplated extending those dreadful, unfair term contracts below the level of directors. At least, not until now.

Without proper consultation, without advice to the unions covering staff and contrary to the expectation in the Council’s own Status Report in December that in January there would be “consultation with key workforce and industry representative groups”, GM Farooq Portelli has slammed his proposal through Council contrary to a recommendation from the Industrial Relations Commission to withdraw it.

The Council’s resolution on 6 February spills four director jobs and 26 positions of Manager. Even at Liverpool, with its long history of understaffing, substandard accommodation and hostility to employees, this is a new low.

The four positions of director and 26 positions of manager have been dumped to give way to a new structure with two Executive Directors and eight Group Managers - 10 positions to be fought over by the 30 employees who have lost their jobs and who will have to apply for new jobs which will also be opened up to external candidates. Nice.

A dispute filed by the USU and enthusiastically joined by depa and the LGEA has been listed and dealt with four times by the Commission in the past fortnight. On 6 February, the date the GM proposed the Council should consider his new structure, Justice Staff in the Industrial Relations Commission recommended that he withdraw it from the consideration of Council to allow proper discussions with the unions representing affected staff.

He refused to do so, contemptuously thumbing his nose at the Commission.

But he nearly came unstuck when the councillors couldn’t decide whether to do the right thing or not - the vote was even on whether they should reject the Commission’s recommendation and adopt the structure, or do the right thing and leave it to the next meeting. The casting vote of the Mayor, Ned Mannoun, got the offensive new structure and the dangerous and unfair working arrangements over the line.

Nice one, Ned. Councillor Mannoun is publicised on their website as “Liverpool’s youngest and first Liberal Mayor” and at 30, he has already been on the Council for four years. What a great role model. He should know better.

At nearly every opportunity to do the right thing and involve the unions in the process, the GM has chosen not to. He rejected a recommendation of the Industrial Relations Commission (which in itself is pretty much unprecedented) and the Commission directed that he attend on the last occasion the dispute was listed on Monday.

And attend he did. It might be easy for him to laugh off a recommendation, but it’s hard to ignore a direction. Still, being physically present isn’t quite enough - engaging in the conversation and participating in proper discussions and negotiation really underpins the conciliation process and when the GM simply refuses to respond to questioning from the unions, the process is frustrated. Stony faced, stonewalling.

There are two issues here. The first is whether or not the Council can designate the third level of managers as Senior Staff given section 332(2)(a) requires of the positions have to be capable of fitting within the executive band of the Award (by intention and convention the level of management below the GM) but the second is more important.

The second is whether the council should.

What is it about this level of management that drives the GM to remove them from permanent positions and put them on term contracts? And why won’t he disclose his reasons? Sitting stony faced in the Commission and saying that he is doing it because he can, only answers one of the questions.

We think he is afraid to say he wants everyone in his management team to be as vulnerable as he is and capable of being flicked without a fair process. But while he can only be flicked by the Council, the rest of the senior staff can be Farooqed by him.

The Commission set a timeframe which will require the GM to provide his reasons to be examined by the unions and at some stage he will have to listen.

But neither does it make any sense to beat his chest about wanting Liverpool to be an employer of choice and then set up threatening and sub-standard employment arrangements when you could offer genuine enticements - and attractions not available under the standard contract. Put up or shut up, Farooq.

In a way, no one should be surprised. As part of this exercise the GM contracted an external consultant to survey staff to find out how they’re feeling about the changes involved in the restructure. The overwhelming emotion was fear.

Why not extend that fear to the third level of management? We all know the only reason you put people on term contracts is to have them fearful of their future and to get them to do things that they may not ordinarily think appropriate or right.

Don’t forget that if you have accreditation with the BPB that the current transitional arrangements conclude on 1 March. Accredited employees who are happy with their existing level of accreditation needn’t worry, but any employee looking for a higher level of accreditation level will need to get an application in now.

President of the Association of Accredited Certifiers Craig Hardy must have made some astonishing New Year resolutions. Last year he thought those of you accredited by the BPB and working in local government were soft or thick and pushovers for developers and nowhere near as rigourous or demanding as the really smart private certifiers, like him.

And he didn’t just mention this quietly to people, muttering in private behind his hand, he boasted this in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph on 11 September where he said that “private certifiers were tougher on builders than were their Council counterparts.”

But now, he wants all those BPB-accredited employees in local government to become members of his own lobby group and he wants to give you a year’s membership for free! What a lovely bloke, you might think (although from the responses we’ve had from members who received his offensive and guileless invitation, not many of you do) but our view of Craig remains unchanged.

Whether it’s the AAC or AIBS, they are really just lobbyists for private certifiers but, because there are more BPB-accredited staff in local government than would ever be available in the private sector, both those organisations would like you as members. It’s all about the business model and the income and, just as Neil Cocks had a whiteboard to do calculations about the income stream the BPB could anticipate if Council staff needed to be accredited, these people know where the money is as well.

If Craig really wanted you as members, to look after your interests rather than just to expand his own fiefdom to boast that it speaks for all certifiers, he should immediately extend an apology for his nonsensical assertions in the Telegraph.

And we will happily publish them. Come on Craig, being a big man isn’t always about stature. 

Newcastle’s general manager Phil Pearce has resigned, after eighteen months (but more importantly only four months after the September elections) and according to the Herald on 22 January, after “clashes with the lord mayor Jeff McCloy”. Having lampooned and lambasted the council and its staff and how they do things in election campaigning, new councillors then find out it’s not as easy as they thought.  Ignorance really is bliss.

Incoming councillors and mayors often have little idea about how local government works and that puts the general manager in the awkward and vulnerable position of keeping them away from the GM’s own responsibilities and the staff, and having to try to educate them about their obligations under the Local Government Act and to understand that sometimes the things that seemed capable of being done can’t be done once people understand how things really work. There are laws and obligations.

Camden was our December example of a general manager removed with nothing more than 38 weeks pay and no explanation and general managers are no different to other employees and should be able to expect fair treatment at work and procedural fairness in termination.

The GM is the most vulnerable employee because the GM is the only employee employed by the Council and the only employee directly accountable to the Council. This vulnerability and the need for proper protection of general managers (in what will inevitably be bigger and better resourced councils) are being dealt with by a number of the reviews currently investigating local government. In particular, the Standard Contracts for GM’s Working Party, the Local Government Acts Review and the Independent Review Panel. And it will be a hard issue for the 2036 flunkies to deal with as well as the Minister’s office.

depa has published a Position Paper on the employment of general managers to be fed into this process. It’s got all the history and the history will surprise many. We had our crack research people going through the archives for days. Here's a link.

Our special HR Awards edition in December announced Lismore Council as our 2012 winner. But we believe people can learn from their mistakes and everyone is entitled to redemption and we applaud the immediate intervention by the GM Gary Murphy to wrestle the latest mishandled issue from HR. He not only agreed to pay the back money claimed to be owed by our most recently aggrieved member, but he ensured that it was paid that day!

The immediate agreement was welcome, the concurrent payment was nothing short of astonishing given the resistance of the Council’s HR Manager to any money being paid by the end of 2012 and, in response to what I put as a joke about whether it would be possible by June 2013, she thought that would be possible. Durr.

Well done, Gary. Your involvement may be overdue but it is welcome and appreciated.

There are still a number of problems at Lismore which need to be resolved as part of this dispute. Councils can’t write letters of offer where they deliberately withhold information which might make the offer less attractive for a prospective employee to accept the position - like there is no progression available because the rate of pay being offered is the top of the scale! That’s dishonest.

Resolution of this dispute will see agreement on a pro forma letter of offer which identifies the band and level of the Award, the grade, step and progression range in the salary system and the end of this bizarre notion that the  Council can establish a TRP that allows them to withhold Award increases if paying the increase would put the job over the limit of the TRP. And things have been so bad with HR we want the review of HR (being carried out by HR themselves!) finalised quickly with external input and discussions with the unions.

depa’s Annual Union Picnic Day Golf Day will be held again this year at Blackheath Golf Course on Metropolitan Picnic Day - Friday 8 March.

We were rained out last year, and as the climate gradually changes we accept that there will be some risk with the weather, but we’re going ahead anyway.

The Picnic Day Golf Day started in 2004 and Blacktown, North Sydney, Penrith, Bankstown (twice) Lithgow, Leichhardt and Canterbury have all provided winning teams. Whether you can play golf or not is largely irrelevant because the team format favours those who like the idea of getting together on picnic day with other members of the union in a beautiful place for a good time.

Don’t forget Deepak Chopra’s advice that if you can play golf with the right attitude, you can live life with the right attitude.

Start 2013 with the right attitude with other depa members. Wendy in the office will be managing  this and if you would like a place you can contact her on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 9712 5255.

For those regular players, you know the routine, get your team together and let us know. Maximum of 18 teams, so get in quickly.

2012 depa HR awards

We name the worst councils

These are prestigious awards. Launched in 2009 with the expectation that it would be a prestigious recognition of management excellence, depa’s HR Awards have highlighted some of the worst excesses of local government HR, are used by members and others to screen prospective employers, are highly anticipated and well-received by the industry (but not sometimes by the recipients) and they are intended to identify bullying, boofheadedness, infamy, incompetence, duplicity, opacity, hypocrisy and general nastiness.

Last year it was hard to separate the contenders and this year has seen some clumsy activity by HR, Directors of Corporate Services and General Managers to get their councils nominated.

Here are the contenders:

Richmond Valley

Richmond Valley ‘s new General Manager John Walker thought it made sense to beat his manly chest on ABC local radio shortly after his appointment and identify the nine day fortnight as something that he was going to remove. ABC News reported it like this:

The Richmond Valley Council’s new general manager says a dispute with staff is inevitable as it pushes ahead with plans to make them work an extra day a month. John Walker says at the moment Council workers have every Friday off. He says that's not efficient and staff need to be more available to the public and more flexible with their working hours.

“This to me is just something that needs reviewing,” Mister Walker said.

“It’s been in practice here for12 years at Richmond Valley and I think the world has changed. All I’m asking people to do is be flexible, not to be rigid. The unions are involved, the Council staff don’t want to change and so we’ll end up with the dispute.”

This declaration of war preceded the first meeting with the unions and, in the end, the Council sheepishly conceded that existing entitlements for employees couldn’t be touched. Anyone who knew anything could have told him that it always makes good sense to check how employees have entitlements and how long they have had them because that normally gives an indication of whether they can be snatched back. There is less embarrassment if you do this before you announce to the world that you are going to start stripping back conditions of employment and then find that you can’t.

And if you want to avoid disputes with the unions in the industry, you should avoid saying things like “the unions are involved, the Council staff don’t want to change and so we’ll end up with a dispute.”

That was a prediction that proved to be self-fulfilling because, tail between their legs, the Council has agreed not to touch the conditions of existing staff and those with a nine day fortnight, and even those with four day weeks, will continue to work them.

There must be something in the water up there because there has been a bit of posturing by other General Managers in the Far North Coast about removing these sorts of entitlements and, we reliably predict, they will have about the same degree of success as Mr Walker - not the first General Manager to find that he will would have handled the matter better had he taken Dirty Harry’s advice - a man's got to know his limitations.

Gosford City

While Richmond Valley is new to the nominations, Gosford is a regular nominee. Last year we said:

“Historically a pernicious, unimaginative, stonewalling and unpleasant employer which over the years has been so difficult we even had to resort to the IRC managing a process that resulted in an agreement between us that they would respond to our correspondence!”

Gosford was responsible for unleashing their conga line of incompetents in an investigation into one of our members. Individually and collectively, everyone from the Acting General Manager through the Director Corporate Services (goodbye and good riddance Terry, enjoy your retirement) a number of scary women from HR and an investigator who couldn’t find his own buttocks with two hands, contributed mightily to a slow and cumbersome investigation that, provided flawed conclusions and, after we filed a dispute with the IRC, resulted in a written apology to our member.

So concerned were our members at Gosford that they put a ban on any investigation conducted by these hapless folk until such time as the Council's policy documents governing the proper conduct of an investigation were changed. The ban has been in place now for 464 days and instead of actually collectively extracting their digits from the conga line to get something done about it, and get the ban lifted, it was apparently not a priority - despite their advice to the IRC that they would do this.

Still, who cares if the Council is happy to allow the ban to continue and have our members refuse to cooperate with any investigations carried out by this bunch of dopes. The ban meant the one of our members leaving the Council refused to be questioned. And the Council had no answer.

Their failure to do something to remove the ban and redraft policy makes Gosford a worthy nominee in 2012, but they also:

  • Announced that they were going to can the performance bonus arrangement that has operated by agreement for more than a decade because it was a managerial prerogative, started some discussions about buying out the performance bonus arrangements but couldn’t do calculations sufficiently accurate to continue the discussions. They conveniently forgot about the signed commitments by the unions and the Council at the time that this is how the salary system would operate. Sometimes signed commitments override management discretion. Anyway, “management prerogative” is the last refuge of the scoundrel.
  • Announced that GM Peter Wilson was retiring and, while he advised staff it was “with very mixed emotions” that he announced his retirement, emotions weren’t mixed amongst employees and the unions. Goodbye Peter.
  • Tried to frustrate moves by a member to job-share as a result of her family situation and, when we forced them to agree to it, dawdled on the implementation of the change for reasons they could only have been punitive to the employee concerned.
  • This process brought to our attention for the first time the Council’s practice of having job -share employees sign an “agreement” that they will cover any leave of their fellow job-sharer. That would work well, wouldn’t it? You’re job sharing because of the kids and you get 15 minutes notice that your co-worker won’t be at work and they made you agree to be there. We made them change these documents and also highlighted the stupidity of the relevant Manager recommending that the member sign anyway and worry about it later. Not even one of the conga line, just a boofhead.

Nambucca Shire

Okay, we all recognise that the GM’s decision to try to do without a Director of Corporate Services and do the job himself didn’t work. Being able to count and comply with deadlines is important sometimes. But having lumbered the Council with a two director structure and deciding that it made sense to return the position of Director of Corporate Services, what other directorate would disappear?

Clearly if you’ve got one good director in the form of the Director of Environment Services Greg Meyers, why not combine corporate services and environmental services and let Greg run the lot?

The clumsiness of this exercise was exacerbated by a consultant’s report boasting that the two director structure was working well in other councils and then neither the GM, nor LGSA's Management Solutions as the author of the document, were prepared to tell us what those councils were. We thought then, and we continue to think, that someone made this up.

(As an aside, we graciously decided not to humiliate the LGSA in any industrial proceedings where they would be acting for the Council and arguing that we ought not have access to a consultant’s report that their own business unit prepared. We forfeited the potential satisfaction available from having the IRC recommend that the LGSA’s industrial people prize information from the LGSA’s own Management Solutions in the interests of a good continuing relationship.)

All of this was done as a cost savings measure but someone’s calculations didn’t add up and only a few weeks after the new structure was announced, the GM decided they had to get rid of a few more people and change the structure again. Poor planning and hopeless management of staff and their aspirations.

We have a soft spot for HR at Nambucca because it has been historically benign and charming, but the GM needed a kick in the tail.

Lismore City

Lismore always gets nominated and last year we said:

For almost invariably getting it wrong at every opportunity, for never, ever understanding how to interpret the Award and for showing scant regard for the market and not doing things they said they would do - but let down by the departure of the old general manager and a chance of recovery.”

Well, what a year. We are not suggesting that anyone is stupid but dealing with Lismore brings a new dimension to impenetrable, obscurantist and duplicitous. But there was some spectacular delight as well, like the email from their HR Manager objecting to the clarity and transparency of our correspondence and saying:

“Mr Robertson

Your email and correspondence associated with this matter is considered highly offensive and prejudicial to the due process and standards expected of the NSW IRC conciliation and arbitration process.

As such, it is being referred to the Division of Local Government and the Ombudsman as an unprofessional conduct complaint in relation to a Union Official”

Where do you start with a stupid email like this? Probably by observing that the conduct of union officials does not fall within the province of either the Division of Local Government, or the NSW Ombudsman - confirming one of our observations in 2011 that they almost invariably get it wrong at every opportunity. And try as we might, we just can’t get a response about how those complaints went. We haven’t heard from the DLG, nor the Ombudsman, so assume that if a complaint was really made, people in those offices assumed it was a prank or a hoax by some looney. Maybe those dopey 2DAY funsters.

But our clear and unequivocal correspondence contrasts entirely with the way Lismore chooses to write letters of offer. Or anything else for that matter.

Our dispute last year about their failure to provide a condition of employment when they appointed two team leaders, continued into 2012. In being offered employment to new positions of Coordinator (previous Coordinator positions were merged and somewhat bizarrely came out at a lower grade than the positions which were being combined) the members were going to get “a pay system, specific to the coordinator level which will allow for further salary progression based on performance outcomes. This will be in place by February 2010. Criteria for salary progression will be negotiated within three months of appointment and will relate to satisfactory achievement of performance plans.”

But the Council failed to have a system in place by February 2010 and therefore also failed to negotiate the criteria for salary progression. And it was only when we filed a dispute in 2011, almost 2 years after this promise was made and it was still not provided, that the matter was resolved. Despite the Council’s abject failures to do what they had undertaken, the obscurantists at Lismore were going to bring four witnesses down for the arbitration - all of whom would have allowed this question to be asked in cross examination:

“Was the promise to introduce the pay system specific to Coordinators, the progression based on performance and the negotiation of criteria for this to occur by February 2010, lies when you wrote the letter, or did they subsequently become lies when you were too hopeless to do it by the time you said you would do it?”

It was all about how the Council wanted to “interpret” their own letter (something we discovered later was a special corporate approach to letters of offer) and it was clear that the Council loved to argue that what looked abundantly clear on the page really meant something entirely different.

Sometimes reason prevails and clearly no one at the Council is stupid - although the threat to make a complaint to the DLG and the Ombudsman must go very, very close – and the members had really had enough, and we settled for payments as if they had done what they said they would.

Being hopeless about delivering on what you’ve undertaken to provide at the Co-ordinator level is one thing but this year we were in dispute about doing exactly the same thing for a Manager. This dispute showed that the Council didn’t understand that Award increases carry the force of law and that increases directed to be paid by the superannuation board are the employer’s responsibility. The Council claimed they could withhold any or all of an Award increase and pay the employer’s superannuation contribution out of the employee’s salary component to keep their costs under their maximum TRP. Now, that is stupid.

Only stupid people employ anyone on a TRP when the Council can’t prevent Award increases or progression of control the costs of superannuation. The 2009 superannuation dispute killed off the concept of TRPs.

But it got worse. Having absorbed part of an Award increase and stolen more money from the employee’s salary component for superannuation, again it became a matter of the Council asserting how to “interpret” their own letter. Too long and boring a story really but seriously put by the Council that a prospective employee should ask the right questions about what a letter of offer means - even here when there had been multiple conversations with HR about the net benefits of making the move and now, still asserted in the same meeting this week where it was conceded that the letter of offer could have been clearer.

But the Council’s purpose was to hide the fact that employment was being offered at the top of the salary system rate of pay and that as far as the Council was concerned, the new employee would never, ever get any salary progression. Charming.

And all in the context of this employee weighing up whether to make the move to Lismore from a rewarding job elsewhere and, being aware of the precedents of the 2009 superannuation dispute, having specific conversations and seeking assurances that the TRP would not be used in this way. This is less than honest and as part of the resolution of this dispute (listed back in the Commission in the second week of January) we will make Lismore change their letters of offer to identify grades and progression options in the salary system so that a prospective employee can make an educated choice. No more confusing letters to trick prospective employees.

All this from a Council that has adopted values enforcing the showing of mutual respect, a sense of belonging for everyone, considering their actions and reactions to others, trusting others and encouraging honesty, and being accountable for what they do! Shame, hypocrites. Maybe it's all in the interpretation.

And wouldn’t you know it, Lismore has also breached the 10% maximum increase in leaseback fees under the Award by convincing the Consultative Committee that the 10% limit doesn’t apply when you change over to a new car - even if it is identical to your previous car. Here they are wrong again and something else to fix next year.

Last year we hoped for changes but new GM Gary Murphy has only disappointed.

And the winner is …

How could it be anyone else? Obscure letters of offer, poisoning relationships by neglect and dawdling with the Coordinator and Manager level, failing to deliver on what was promised in letters of offer, drafting those letters of offer with the intention that they be some bizarre puzzle to be disentangled and examined by a prospective employee rather than providing information which is clear and unequivocal, unable to respond to any deadline, prepared to spend money defending breaches of the Awards, damaging the trust and confidence in the relationship with employees at a critical managerial and supervisory level and all the time hypocritically boasting about mutual respect and being accountable for all that they do.

This year we will be providing a proper trophy and presenting it to Lismore. We’ll let you know how that goes as well.

That’s it for us to 2012

We will be closing the office for the year tomorrow afternoon. Wendy will be back on Wednesday 2 January and I’ll be back on 7 January.

Our best wishes to you all can be found in Robbo’s Pearls.



Don’t be alarmed that this is a story about the vulnerability of general managers because reckless and unfair decision-making affects everyone - and we have members who are general managers as well. And even more members who would like to be.

Eight weeks after a new Council was elected at Camden, the incoming Mayor, Councillor Lara Symkowiak use the backing of her four other Liberal councillors to terminate the contract of the respected general manager Greg Wright. Clause 10.3.5 of the general managers and senior staff Standard Contract allows termination without explanation by giving 38 weeks written notice or 38 weeks pay.

This is the ludicrous front-page of the Daily Telegraph on 4 December. We have removed the picture of Ricky Ponting’s farewell and replaced it with an image of the Evil Empire’s Rupert Murdoch, trying to look “humbled” before the Leveson Inquiry into the irresponsible behaviour of his own newspapers, and in particular, the practice at News Ltd of hacking into private phones. Nice.

Prepared under the byline of the Telegraph’s State Political Editor (and not the respected local government writer), the article, boasted of as an “Exclusive”, was not exclusive it all because it was simply nothing more than the distorted publication of old news available to everyone.

The NSW Government has a policy of rejecting the concept of compulsory amalgamation - consistent with a succession of previous Governments over the decades hoping that common sense would encourage the voluntary building of bigger, better, more financially sustainable councils to provide improved services and better pay and conditions for employees. But common sense is a decidedly uncommon faculty sometimes, and this hasn’t worked effectively. Too much for the politicians to lose.

Uh oh, “clowns” might seem a bit harsh but how else do you describe advice in the BPBulletin of 23 November that they are proposing to amend regulations affecting accredited Council employees to let them do things which would now breach a Council’s Code of Conduct. The BPB proposes to:

Introduce an exemption the Council accredited certifiers if they are related to a person involved in the design or construction of an aspect of development. Council accredited certifiers will be able to issue a Part 4A or complying development certificate if related to a person involved in the design or construction of an aspect of development, if the certificate is issued on behalf of the Council, to the Council or to a council employee and the capital investment value of the development does not exceed $5 million.

So far with the accrediting of Council employees, so good. We remain concerned about the potential problems of an employee having a responsibility to their employer and at the same time a responsibility to an accrediting organisation. To our mind, although we could never convinced to Government of this, the principal responsibility of an employee is to their employer - something they seem very capable of understanding in employment generally but not when it comes to setting up parallel authority for a council employee with the BPB.

But this proposal would allow employees to do work as a council employee on applications involving  family members in a way which would be prohibited by the Model Code of Conduct adopted by all councils in the State.

Apparently no Obeids were involved in the drafting of this but this clash between the ethics of working in local government and the “ethics” of the BPB is a bit embarrassing and should proceed no further.

Not by a ratings agency like Standard and Poor’s (which was so discredited in the Global Financial Crisis) but by an International Report by the authoritative and respected Asset Owners Disclosure Project.

And not just one of the two funds Triple-A rated out of the 300 largest institutional investors in the world, but Local Government Super was rated number 1.

Number 1, numero uno. Check out how the Sydney Morning Herald reported it on 12.12.12.

But first, some history in which depa has had a critical role. LGS separated from State Super and First State Super in July 1997 and in 1998, as a result of a report I wrote as a Director and submitted to the Board, LGS resolved to never own tobacco again. There had been history of professional health workers in State Super agitating for State Super to not own tobacco shares because of the fundamental conflict between the damage done by tobacco and the work done by health professionals and the undesirability of their superannuation fund investing in such a murderous industry - where are even using the product in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendation can kill you and those innocents passively smoking around you.


Leaving aside the dismantling of community participation and certainty under the guise of planning reform, the NSW Government has already announced five separate investigations into local government and last week we received an invitation to participate in a “Council by Council audit of the existing infrastructure backlog in NSW”. That makes six. That’s a lot of activity and introspection.

It’s always nice to be invited to participate. No one wants to be the only person in the office left off an invitation list to a party or a wedding or whatever, but we are increasingly getting to the stage that it’s a relief to already have an appointment at the designated time and have an excuse not to attend. Having to wash our hair sometimes isn’t good enough.

Everyone has noticed that the Dubbo talkfest known as Destination 2036, with its Working Parties flailing around trying to create efficient structures while at the same time avoiding amalgamations, is now being stared down by the Independent Review Panel which is starting with a blank sheet of paper and looking at amalgamations - amongst other options.

And the Acts Review, including reviewing the employment provisions of the 1993 Act, overlaps with the Review of the Standard Contracts for GMs and Senior Staff.

Here is a quick summary of where we are with the five reviews:

The September local government elections changed the political complexion of many councils and in the Hunter has delivered up a bunch of deniers of climate science and developers. Partially the responsibility of the unattractiveness of NSW Labor, voters have clearly wanted change.

But voters do need to be careful about what they wish for. Winston Churchill famously observed that “the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter” and looking at Newcastle and Wyong, it’s hard to argue.

 The new Lord Mayor of Newcastle is a property developer, Jeff McCloy. Councillor McCloy is a significant and accomplished developer in Newcastle and will now preside over a Council making judgements about his own applications. Employees of the Council would need to seek the general manager’s approval under section 353 of the Local Government Act for anything that conflicted with their Council responsibilities and we assume the Councillor McCloy will make his conflicts public and manage them well.

But unfortunately he comes with some embarrassing baggage. A denier of the science of climate change, on 6 March the Sydney Morning Herald quoted him as contemplating leading a class action suit against Lake Macquarie City Council for “falling for this unjustified, worldwide idiocy about sea level rises”. That would be the projections done by the CSIRO based on econometric analysis of decades of climate data.

And, as a man prepared to put his money where his mouth is, he convened a public meeting of discredited critics of the science like mining company director and University of Adelaide geologist Professor Ian Plimer to preach to those who also don’t want to accept the science. A Professor of geology talking about a different area of science in which he has no expertise or credibility is like going to a dentist or a knee surgeon if you have a problem with your brain.

Anyway, no such class action has begun and Lake Macquarie is not the only Council dealing with new councillors who want to allow people to build on flood prone land and in areas where the science says there will be tidal inundation.

We’ve got an office full of letters from a succession of Ministers for Local Government, all committing to a review and a new approach to local government. We’ve got one from the current Minister, Don Page MP, as well.

Destination 2036 started badly. Not only did it make no sense if you were looking for serious reform to invite the groups with the most to lose (general managers and mayors) to come to Dubbo to talk about it. Neither did it make any sense to leave the unions off the list of those invited because, if you are going to do anything, the unions would need to be involved in the employment arrangements affected by change.

Clearly it was the usual group at the Division of Local Government who failed to invite us (continuing a long history of failing to acknowledge the role of the unions in the industry), so the Minister wasn’t responsible for this and his office was surprised that the DLG had dropped us off the list of “stakeholders”. In the end we got invited (and we could hear the rocket from the Minister’s office penetrating those responsible in the DLG from our office 9 km from the CBD) but we chose not to go because it seemed a waste of time and we would struggle to get the floor to say anything useful. As it turns out, our instinct was confirmed by the one union official who did attend.

A number of ideas flowed from Destination 2036 but none of them had anything to do with the fundamental problem - namely, that probably 40% of New South Wales councils are not financially sustainable, can’t afford to pay their staff properly, can’t provide flexible working conditions for family purposes, can’t provide good working conditions or market rates of pay, can’t afford to train people etc. What’s the point of a talkfest that doesn’t involve the difficult question of Council sizes and amalgamation?

But it gets worse.

Like all businesses, councils are obliged to supply appropriate tools to those who need them to get the job done effectively and efficiently. They would never get away with supplying substandard tools, nor would they contemplate it because it’s a false economy. Neither would they get away with poor quality plant generally.

Why is it then that we still see professional employees wandering around with telephones that would be more appropriately exhibited in the Powerhouse Museum?

Health, building and planning professionals should be provided with phones that allow them to be efficient and make the best value of the time out on the site or on-the-job. Yet smart phones which provide access to emails and Internet and a good quality camera are still not widespread amongst local government professionals.

How much easier would it be to carry a smart phone to a site instead of a dumb phone and a camera. How much more practical and more efficient it would be to be able to use a smart phone to tap into the Council’s file system or send and receive email information. On a site and something pops up unexpectedly, an android phone provides solutions and opportunities beyond the comprehension of the old blokes often in charge of buying them.

That’s why at many councils it is the Manager of Finance or some other bean-counter who makes judgements about the sort of phone that will be provided to professional staff who could be much more efficient in the field with a multimedia phone.

Some councils are already dealing with complaints from staff about the adequacy of their phones and how much more effective they would be moving into the 21st century with a phone capable of many other functions. Many councils aren’t. Some councils give smart phones at higher levels of the organisations because they recognise they want their better paid employees maximising their efficiency and effectiveness but don’t really think about how far down the organisation this improved efficiency should go.

It doesn’t make any sense. Professional employees who work in the field must be provided with phones that allow them to do the job properly. Not in terms of how it was done in 1970, but how could be done now, taking advantage of the benefits of the new technologies

This is an industrial issue in which we can be involved. We have conducted disputes in the past about the health and safety aspects of members working in remote locations where old analog phones, or cheap telecommunication networks, didn’t provide proper coverage. While these issues still continue in some areas (meaning it makes sense from a health and safety viewpoint the two employees to go out on particular jobs, rather than one) these health and safety issues are easily won.

We would love the opportunity to grapple with a Council where some accountant has decided, without really knowing the usefulness of a smart phone to professionals working in the field, that they should be provided with something less.

Any volunteers?

I’m going on holidays. It is one thing to encourage members to take a break when they need one but in a small organisation like ours, it’s hard to get away. Nevertheless, I’m out of here on Friday 21 September and not coming back until Monday 14 October. All fresh, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready.

The office will still be able to refer you to people to give you advice while I’m gone and we have arrangements with our lawyers just in case, but in the meantime, here are some suggestions for how to keep yourself out of trouble while I’m away:

  • Annual and long service leave requires the Council’s agreement and it makes sense to get that agreement before you spend your money on a trip to Europe, for example.
  • If you’re sick and can’t get to the office, ring your supervisor/manager as soon as you can in the morning and try to avoid looking like you’ve disappeared. It’s important to ring a person you report to.
  • Try to avoid being sick on Friday and Monday because, while you might be legitimately sick, it doesn’t look good.
  • If the Council wants to interview you about something that could become a disciplinary issue and they offer you the opportunity of taking a support person, take the delegate because it’s always good to have someone there as a witness and to metaphorically hold your hand.
  • If the Council claims you’ve done something wrong and they are grilling you about it, don’t admit to it if it isn’t true because you want the meeting to end, because next they will nail you.
  • If the Council finds you been making phone calls outside the Council area during working hours and they ask why, don’t tell them it’s because you loaned your phone to a friend, because that only makes life worse.
  • Try to avoid shouting at people in the office, even if you’re angry and they may well be the stupidest applicants you’ve ever met.
  • Try to avoid shouting at other employees and NEVER shout at your boss.
  • Everyone makes mistakes, if you do, fix it as soon as you can, apologising is always a good idea and never, ever try to justify it. It’s not a matter of interpretation, it’s a mistake.
  • Don’t backdate documents to fit within timeframes.
  • Try not to get booked for speeding or other motoring offences in the Council car and, when you get picked up by radar outside Goulburn on the first day you got the car and it‘s your birthday, with all your mates in the car, don’t tell the cop you were lucky he didn’t catch you 10 km earlier.
  • If you leaseback agreement says you report minor damage, do so.
  • Don’t pinch things from the Council - whether that be stationary or petrol outside your entitlements under the leaseback agreement.
  • Don’t, if the Council is asking legitimate questions about where you were or what you were doing, go home panicking because you’ve been sprung and then go on stress leave. It’s hard to come off stress leave and you still have to deal with the issue.
  • Don’t do any applicants or objectors any favours beyond your normal professional responsibilities because they can often be misinterpreted or misunderstood and you never know who’s watching.
  • If the ICAC turns up and asks questions, assume they already know the answers and tell them exactly what you know. You never know what they know and they wouldn’t be there looking for a fire if they didn’t have evidence of some smoke.
  • Be careful of the images and other things you receive, send and store on the Council’s computer. If you wouldn’t be prepared to let your mum see it, it shouldn’t be on the Council system.
  • Don’t call the HR flunky unprofessional, unhelpful, or an idiot - even if they are. Leave that to me when I get back.


Good planning can add value and pleasure to people's lives and the well-being of communities. Bad planning can destroy lives and communities. The NSW Government is reviewing the 30-year-old planning system which, given the sad and unhappy context of recent experiences under the previous government - where it became a developers’ playground and where former Sydney Lord Mayor Frank Sartor (back in the day when we liked his pronouncements about planning and private certifiers) ridiculed the Land and Environment Court by referring to it as the Land and Developers’ Court – is not before time.

The previous Government became notorious for removing planning powers from councils for "state significant projects" and the gradual decline in the quality of our built environment accelerated. We applauded the incoming State Government for the immediate removal of the infamous Part 3A. And we happily accepted the opportunity to have some time with Tim Moore and Ron Dyer who started the "clean sheet of paper" review.

It's not just Maria and the von Trapp family who understand that it makes sense to begin at the beginning and, as the plucky Maria sang, "it begins with doe". We just hope it doesn't begin with “dough”. Developers have had it delivered to them on the plate for too long and it's time the needs of the community become the first priority.

The Cooma-Monaro Post ran this headline on 18 July - as a lead into a story about a bloke called Andrew Thaler who had been thrown out of the July meeting of Cooma-Monaro Shire Council for not apologising for accusations levelled against Council staff at a previous meeting.

If we had a dollar for every ‘public nuisance’ not evicted from a Council meeting over the years for refusing to apologise to staff, or even a dollar for those comatose mayors, or deputy mayors, or even general managers who allowed allegations against staff to continue unchallenged, we could buy a coal mining lease from someone's mate in the Hunter.

We've railed against belligerent councillors and members of the public now for more than a decade and managed to extract apologies from most. Peter Hurst originally told us he would apologise to staff at Wagga Wagga but then reneged, we've had members with bans on councillors and others until apologies are extracted, and even members on strike.

Yes, the year is getting on and it won't be long now until December when we announce our awards for the worst HR in local government. Won by Bankstown and Taree in recent years, there are some new contenders already.

Lismore simply can't help themselves; Singleton has gone hard after we stopped them removing concession days just before Xmas last year; Lake Macquarie is afraid to manage relations between smart women, conducts partial and inadequate investigations and one bloke who should know better thinks it's clever to boast that he always measures low in emotional intelligence, so managing sheilas is a bit of a challenge for him; Richmond Valley is close to being a nominee.

The GM at Harden Shire has to be an early favourite for inviting himself to the meeting of the Consultative Committee (when ordinarily it is the Consultative Committee that does the inviting) and haranguing everyone into adopting the industry Alcohol and Other Drugs guidelines. Having the Consultative Committee involved in this process only really works if it is dealt with in the consultative way.

We survive because people join to be informed about what's going on, to have a say in advancing or in protecting conditions and as a form of insurance in a fairly hostile and unpredictable political and employment environment.

The insurance aspect is like insuring anything. You insure it in case you have an accident, or someone breaks into your house or it burns down and you know you can't ring up an insurer, tell them that you always meant to be insured and that you support insurance, pay for the next 12 months and then make a claim retrospectively. It would be unusual to think otherwise but sometimes we do see people wanting action on things that happened three years ago.

But people do join unions hoping that the union can do things for them that predate their membership. Whoops, I just got my third warning, or the grievance I filed myself has been rejected, I'll join the union for help.

We have been flexible about this. We are soft when it comes to helping people at work and we've been prepared in the past to have new members make a financial contribution equivalent to what might seem like a reasonable period of membership, sometimes two years for big issues, but no longer.

Look out driving to work, it is no longer covered by workers’ compensation.

Everyone is affected by the NSW Government’s changes that remove compensation for injuries that happen on the way to or from work from workers’ compensation coverage. With the support of the Shooters and the Nile Group in the Upper House, the Government has removed the historic protection available for injuries that only happen because you're on your way to or from work. Historically known as "journey claims", this is part of the Government’s attack on workers’ compensation.

While there have been other entitlements slashed and burned, this is the cutback that can affect everyone, every day.

An amendment in the Upper House has provided that accidents which are "incidental" to your work in travelling to or from work may be covered. No one really knows what this means - it draws on the South Australian legislation and the only example given to help understand its implications is a nurse travelling to work and doing a bit of nursing on the way.

Here is a link to a summary of the changes prepared by our solicitors NEW Law and as soon as it is clear what is "incidental", we'll let you know. You should presume the worst.

All we can be clear about at the moment is that if you start work in the field, you are not covered under workers’ compensation as you travel from home to the site but, because you have already started work, the remainder of your journey to your normal workplace is covered.

It's hard to see any logic other than cutting costs in removing journey claims when these claims cover accidents that only occur because someone is travelling to or from work.


The Division of Local Government is currently reviewing the Model Code of Conduct and back in July last year we made a submission. Now, having seen the proposed new Draft which has been circulated in the industry (but typically, the DLG didn't think it appropriate to send it to us) we think there's really only one problem.

But it's a big one.

The Division has proposed a new 6.4 (e) to require that employees must "ensure that any participation in political activities does not conflict with their primary duty to serve the Council in a politically neutral manner."

What? There is no "primary duty" for employees in the current Local Government Act requiring political neutrality (whatever that is), there is no definition of what "participation in political activities" means and the Division is unable to give any examples of the sort of behaviour that they think needs to be regulated with a provision like this.

It looks like everyone pretty much missed this provision but we didn't. Significantly, this proposal has been drafted by employees of the Crown and there is no comparable obligation imposed on them.  What were they thinking? And, more importantly, what were they thinking at the same time that the Independent Review Panel is charged with the responsibility of making recommendations to create a more mature relationship between the State and local government?

It would also be potentially challengeable as a breach of an employee's human rights and any number of ILO conventions. This is what we said in our letter.


The Local Government and Shires Association, the United Services Union, the Local Government Engineers Association and depa have all agreed that any drug testing in local government should be done by saliva testing and not urine testing. This fundamental agreement underpins the finalisation of the industry's Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy and Procedure in the Industrial Relations Commission yesterday.

The Agreement recognises that saliva testing is both more effective in detecting impairment at the time of the test, more reliable in not producing false positives from legitimate medication and less intrusive into the privacy of employees because it detects impairment at the time of the test and not something that someone might have done two weeks ago.

For more than two years the employer organisations and unions have argued about, developed, trialled, argued again and finally resolved an agreed approach across the industry for those councils interested in introducing alcohol and other drugs policies. It has been at times acrimonious, threatening and uncooperative but it is now over and a good policy base has been created. And our role holding out against agreement between the employers and the USU supporting random testing and some other uncomfortable things has meant the development of a better policy.

Even the USU recognises this, with their representative in this process Steven Hughes, Manager of the Northern Division acknowledging "and in finalising this, the constructive amendments made by Robbo and Martin that allowed consensus to be reached." High praise indeed.

LGS has been committed to responsible and sustainable investment now for more than a decade. That commitment has seen LGS rated as Sustainable Super Fund of the Year, the top-rated fund in preparedness for investment in a low carbon future by the Climate Institute for successive years, winner of the Best Green Super Fund from Money Magazine and the winner of SuperRatings Infinity Award both in 2011 in 2012.

That commitment has driven improvements in the sustainability of the directly held property portfolio.

LGS owns 120 Sussex Street in Sydney - a 21-year-old office building which is the first CBD building in Australia to receive a 5½ star NABERS Energy rating. The upgrade of the building carried out by LGS reduced energy consumption by 54%, making it the lowest energy-intensive CBD building in Australia, as well as reducing water consumption by 46%.

This was done using leading Australian lighting, air conditioning and chiller technology, and the full upgrade was completed at a final cost of only $160 per square metre. These are the factors that drove the Property Council of Australia to provide this prestigious award to LGS. Anyone can build sustainable new buildings, the challenge is what to do with existing building stock.

Lower running costs, fully tenanted and more satisfied tenants means long-term sustainable returns for LGS members and the planet.

Proposed changes to the Workers Compensation Act introduced in a bill into the Legislative Assembly by Minister for Finance Services Greg Pearce yesterday are even worse than foreshadowed in the May issue of depaNews and were described by the Secretary of UnionsNSW Mark Lennon as “appalling”.

"Whether it be caps on medical payments, the ability to get lump-sum compensation, the removal of journey claims, it is simply an appalling attack on workers benefits", he said.  depa is an affiliate to UnionsNSW and we couldn't agree more. It's a huge erosion of your rights at work and protection for sick and injured workers. 

But what makes it all worse is that the proposed changes are now announced to be retrospective and will affect claims already in the system. This, in itself, is unprecedented.

We argued for better management of the system and more control of costs in May but with the Shooters and the Christian Democrats (the Fred Nile group) having already given the principles the nod, we can expect the bill to be legislated in the next week or so and within the current financial year.  (Odd bedfellows you might think but it could be worse - the Shooters might want to shoot sick and injured workers and the Christian Democrats might want to pray for them.)

There are many, many examples of people whose lives are ruined by injuries at work but now, if you get injured on your way to work or your way home, however that occurs and whomever is responsible for the accident, you will not be covered by workers compensation. Sitting quietly at a set of traffic lights on your way to start work and you get rear-ended by someone paying less attention, and you will be on your own.

It's more than appalling, it's disgraceful. The Liberal/National Party Coalition always rails against the links between Labor and the union movement and cries "class war" in response to open and logical debate about things like mining taxes, the ability of millionaires/billionaires to avoid their taxation obligations etc but no-one wages class war like the Coalition.

Anyone can be injured at work and anyone can be injured on their way to or from work. Contact your local member, particularly if they are a member of the Coalition Government, and tell them it's not fair. Ask them to explain why accidents that occur only because you are a worker travelling to or from work should be removed from coverage under the Workers Compensation Act.

What is it with the GMs at councils in the Hunter region? How could they not be benign and contented people with all that fabulous Hunter Valley semillon and shiraz? Why is it that when the Commission recommended that they provide details to depa to allow us to have an informed debate about what really happened in the trial of the Industry Guidelines at the five councils, that the four Hunter Councils refused to supply the information?

It would be easy to say that the GMs don't understand that to have an informed debate you need information. It could be that they've been snowed by HR Managers who want to assert that there is evidence of a deterrent effect but don't want to back that up by providing proper evidence.  It could be of course, that they know there is no evidence but they want to keep asserting it anyway.

Debate and disagreement continues between the LGSA and the unions about how the Industry Guidelines, agreed between all of us and tested in the trial in the last six months or so of last year, should be changed as a result of the trial. When the Industry Guidelines were prepared there was unanimous agreement between the LGSA and the three unions that random drug testing only had a place for employees who had already tested positive either in a post-incident or reasonable-suspicion test. But the LGSA and the USU at some stage during the trial (and even before the survey of employees participating in the trial) changed the view to support random testing being an option for everyone - not based on risk, not based on reasonable suspicion, not based on incidents. Both organisations claimed that there was evidence that having random testing deterred many people from doing things they had historically done.

We are open-minded. We entered the trial with no expectation at all about what would be discovered but, like everyone else, were a bit surprised when the random testing regime chosen as an "option" for the trial by the five councils didn't turn up anyone.  No drugs anywhere, and no alcohol positive testing either.

The Minister for Primary Industry in the NSW Government is Katrina Hodgkinson and in response to a request from the new Minister for some better and more equal gender representation on the NSW Food Regulation Forum, we invited female members to apply in the March depaNews.  And we received a few expressions of interest too. Thanks to those who gave us a call.

The Committee of Management in May resolved to continue our representation through President Andrew Spooner and to appoint food safety activist Jody Houston from Manly Council.

We welcome and thank Jody for her interest.


Those of you who keep an eye on BPB Bulletins would have noticed in the last one that the BPB had met with depa as part of their feedback to stakeholders about the recent barnstorming of the State on proposed changes to the accrediting of Council employees.

We (VP Jamie Loader, Committee of Management member Jim Boyce and I) met with representatives of the Board (Neil Cocks, Jonathon Lynch and consultant Rosemary Naughton) on 5 June and, amongst other things, put to them the feedback we have been receiving from members about the need to review the March 2013 deadline.

We subsequently formalised this request and supported the selection of five or six councils, broadly representative of councils across the state, where the real implications of the proposed changes in March 2013 could be tested. This has been referred by the Board to the Policy Committee which meets in the next week or so.



Workplace injuries can ruin people's lives. And not just by robbing the injured worker of the quality of their lives but also the quality of the lives of families and friends of injured workers. Sometimes injured workers are never able to function again as a father, mother, uncle or aunty, son or daughter, wife, husband, lover or fit and healthy grandparents providing support to their kids and that special relationship of grandparents with their grandkids.

Minister for Finance and Services Greg Pearce’s comment that "everybody gets a prize" ignores this pain, suffering and misery. It is facile and offensive and trivialises proper compensation for workplace injuries. Those of us who don’t get injured at work are the ones who get a prize. The Minister made this observation in the Legislative Council on 28 March, in a speech which sneered at long-term physiotherapy and remedial massage and took a shot at over-charging surgeons. His comments missed the point.

If the Minister really was announcing that "this government intends to clean up the scheme", then a review of Workers Compensation to better manage over-charging and over-servicing would be both predictable and reasonable.  No-one defends rorting the system. Rorting makes everyone else involved in the system suffer. Rorting is a function of the adequacy of how the system is managed and the auditing of the processes - that's what needs reviewing.  But that's not what the Government is proposing at all.

The Government has established an Inquiry to investigate significant cutbacks in compensation which have the potential to affect every employee who may have an accident at work or an accident in travelling to or from work. This is not cleaning up the system, this is making injured workers pay.

Unions NSW has come out hard against the Government announcements. And so it should. depa is affiliated to Unions NSW and will, like all other affiliated unions, happily contribute a levy of one dollar per member to fund his campaign. Make no mistake, getting injured at work devastates families as well as the quality of life of an injured worker.


Shock results: Drug and Alcohol Trial finds nothing at the same time as Fair Work Australia sets some guidelines

Uh oh, who'd have thought?

In a result which won't surprise those who thought drugs and alcohol at work were not a problem in local government, but will surprise those who believed that they were, the trial of the Industry Guidelines on alcohol and other drugs found no employees tested positive for illegal drugs and only one tested positive for alcohol.

This result explains why the overwhelming majority of councils are not interested in developing drug and alcohol policies and are certainly not interested in the wasted time, effort, cost and aggravation of random testing.

The Industry Guidelines were developed cooperatively by the Local Government and Shires Associations and the three local government unions – the United Services Union, the Local Government Engineers Association and depa - in 2010 and 2011. It was the first time agreement had been reached between the employer and employee organisations over an area of policy which had been studiously avoided or, if dealt with at all, randomly and inconsistently developed.

As far back as 2006 depa had been encouraging the LGSA and the other unions to reach agreement on drug and alcohol policies that would discourage the introduction of random testing. This is a reaction to news first revealed in a Sunday newspaper that Kempsey had introduced random testing without consulting with the unions.


In parallel with the Industry Guidelines trial, two of the local government unions, the USU and APESMA (the Federal organisation of the LGEA) were involved with other electricity industry unions in a significant test case at Endeavour Energy. The case was heard before Senior Deputy President Hamberger in Fair Work Australia.

The Senior Deputy President had already established precedents about the importance of a random testing regime in industries that provide significant amounts of dangerous work (like electricity and mining, for example) using a testing method which actually detected impairment at the time the testing was carried out. Electricity is one of those industries where the unions agree with the concept of random testing because everywhere you go there is 1 million volts waiting to zap you.

This meant the obvious choice needed to be saliva testing, rather than urine testing, which fails to detect impairment at the time of the test but gives you a great idea of what people been doing in their own time over preceding weeks.

The Endeavour Energy case set the following precedents which will be fed into the review of the Industry Guidelines next week:

  1. any PCA/alcohol testing should use the Motor Traffic Act differing prescriptions,
  2. oral testing is preferred to urine testing for a variety of privacy and accuracy reasons and,
  3. there should be no obligation on employees to disclose prescription medication prior to any testing.

These three principles will confront Upper Hunter on the method of testing, Coffs Harbour in particular on the "one size fits all" PCA testing and quite a few councils believing it is appropriate for employees to disclose their medication regardless of privacy. Any testing regime that requires people being medicated for depression, hormonal changes, gender reallocation, sexually transmittable diseases or other treatments which are none of the business of the employer, needs to be resisted at every opportunity.

In a thorough profile in News Review in last weekend’s SMH, the Premier not only claimed boring was good but that boring meant “that we’re focusing on real issues, making tough decisions around complex issues that hopefully are focused on the public.”

We are not so sure. A boring approach to local government reform won't do anyone any favours and a continuation of the previous Government's reluctance to bite the bullet and amalgamate what are clearly financially unsustainable councils, means a continuation of councils trading insolvent, less money for training, less money for market rates etc. Please, this is an area where being boring isn't the solution.

The announcement last week of a Local Government Review Panel to "investigate and identify options for governance models, structural arrangements and voluntary boundary changes for local government in New South Wales" perpetuates two decades of failed social policy trying to convince those with the most substantial vested interests ( general managers and councillors) to ignore the self-evident. Sweet talking hasn't worked.

Here is an area crying out for something a bit less boring. Come on Barry, do something challenging when you appoint the three members of the Review -  ask depa for a nomination!

Let's not get distracted. We are going to happily celebrate Barry's anniversary with some exciting news because we try not to do boring.

The State Electoral Office wrote to all financial members calling for nominations and at noon on Friday 23 March, the Electoral Office declared elected nine candidates for the nine available positions. The election was uncontested and all positions were filled. Move along Barry, nothing boring to see here.

Two new young women planners will join the Committee.  Joanne Dunkerley is a planner and our delegate at Great Lakes and Selina McNally is also a planner and our delegate at Nambucca.  Both nominated and were declared elected and will join a Committee with considerable experience and expertise in managing the policies and action of the union. And with Jo Doheny, a woman, our delegate and a planner from Gosford elected as a Vice President, (Jo was appointed to the Committee in September last year to fill a casual vacancy) and Kerry Hunt, a long-serving member of the Committee in a variety of positions over many years, we at last have female representation proportionate to the number of women amongst our members.

Four women in a Committee of ten and with a nice range of ages that more appropriately reflects the demographics of our members too.

The new Committee takes office from 1 May for a two year term.

Over the past couple of years Andrew Spooner and Les Green have acted as our representatives on the Food Regulation Forum - established by the NSW Government to improve consultation and feedback between all the parties involved in the regulation of food and food premises.

Amongst other things, the Forum is the primary source of advice and guidance to the Food Regulation Partnership and it evaluates and provides advice to the NSW Food Authority. Falling within the responsibilities of the Minister for Primary Industries, the new Minister,  Katrina Hodgkinson MP has expressed a desire to try to even out the genders in what has been a uniformly blokey group.  And we are happy to help. After all, look what's just happened to our Committee.

So, we are calling for expressions of interest to be considered by the May meeting of the Committee of Management to be one of our representatives. If you are a woman who is a member and involved in food regulation, then here is an opportunity to have a higher level involvement in policy than your current job will allow.

If you are interested, ring the office. It would be a bit embarrassing if, having women representatives on the Committee proportionate to our women members, we can't find someone.

Last week the Federal Parliament endorsed progressive increases to compulsory superannuation that will see an eventual increase from the current 9% to 12% in 2019. SGC will go to 9.25% in July next year. Compulsory superannuation is a piece of social policy admired across the globe. Originating in a relationship between the ACTU and the Hawke Labor Government, ACTU Secretary Bill Kelty and Treasurer and then Prime Minister Paul Keating created something so obvious and compelling that you wonder why compulsory superannuation didn't exist earlier.

Well, you don't wonder for long. Compulsory national superannuation was initially proposed as part of the 1972 Whitlam initiatives but up until the 1980s superannuation was solely the privilege of predominantly male professions, clustered in the public sector or available after a long qualifying period in the private sector. It was a system that meant there was no proper strategy to improve and protect retirement income levels and this disadvantaged wage earners in the private sector and particularly, women workers. It was pension or nothing.

And superannuation funds were only run by the big banks and insurers and were usually available through company funds with impenetrable governance, questionable decisions about investment and anonymous trustees.

So how can anyone be opposed to a system that introduced compulsory superannuation for everyone, managed through funds with equal representation of employers and employees and with no profits being skimmed off to the big banks?

In 1985 the then Leader of the Opposition was John Howard. Howard said this:

"That superannuation deal, which represents all that is rotten with industrial relations in Australia, shows the government and the trade union movement in Australia not only playing the employers of Australia for mugs but it is also playing the Arbitration Commission for mugs".

Howard was commenting on the deal between the government and the ACTU which saw the trade union movement forfeit a claim to 3% productivity improvement as wages to instead be paid in compulsory superannuation - endorsed by the Arbitration Commission and managed by superannuation funds with equal representation of the unions in the industry and the employers.

Howard went on to describe it as a "Chicago racket", referring to the corruption and gangster years of Chicago in the 1930s. But Howard's view was not a lonely one in the Coalition - which has steadfastly opposed every increase in compulsory superannuation since that time, whether it be from 3% to 6%, or the 6% to the current 9%. Antagonistic, moi?

How dare the employees in an industry and the employers run a superannuation fund for people on a not-for-profit basis when the Coalition's mates in banks and finance could have been skimming off the cream investing the money themselves without the employees having any idea where it was being invested, by whom or who were the Trustees managing it on their behalf?

Now there is around $1.4 billion managed in the compulsory superannuation pool in Australia - a figure expected to increase to $3 billion in the next decade.

But the Conservatives who opposed equal access to superannuation still do so. In an article in The Australian on 14 March in anticipation of the increase in compulsory superannuation, Tony Abbott attacked industry super funds creating a "gravy train" for union officials to sit on the boards.

The current Opposition Leader foreshadowed that the Coalition doesn't easily forget their mates losing access to money being made in this area and that they will pursue this at some stage in government.

But the problem for the Coalition is that industry/government funds that exist only to fund retirement incomes for the members rather than create profits for corporations have, in the past eight years to June 2011, delivered 49 of the 50 strongest performances. Corporate funds are regularly at the bottom of the barrel on returns, the fees are invariably higher, the directors and trustees are the real faceless men, and existing solely to provide a profit to the companies that run them.

Any attack on the not-for-profit sector will be driven solely by hatred and envy and puts at risk the retirement incomes of members of those funds. Beware.


Grumpy Wagga Wagga builder Peter Hurst has had a win over Wagga Wagga City Council with the ADT ordering that the Council disclose details of their investigation of his 2010  complaint.

There is nothing wrong with complainants wanting to be satisfied their complaints were properly investigated and that the result of the investigation is transparent and consistent with the evidence provided. But, there are sometimes people in the community for whom no decision or action, other than the one they want, is ever acceptable.

In 2010 Peter Hurst made a broad range of allegations against two members of ours in the Planning Department. A long investigation by the Council's own Internal Auditor (so long that we filed a dispute to try to hurry it up) cleared the employees concerned and the subsequent industrial dispute set a new standard for protecting employees in the industry. No longer can councils ignore the protection of their employees’ professional reputations as part of their duty of care.

Maybe people were tired and emotional or it could have been the time of year but it seems we will never know. Someone at Wingecarribee Shire thought it made good sense to give 12 months notice to remove a leaseback car from a member just before the end of the year but when we wrote to challenge the decision those responsible scurried for cover like cockroaches under the fridge when the kitchen light goes on.

One of the great improvements in the 2010 Local Government (State) Award was a provision that if an employee had a leaseback car as a condition of their employment, then they had it forever or until such time as they chose to hand it back. This replaced the standard 12 months notice provision for everyone and separated cars into conditions of employment cars and cars provided for other purposes.

Clause 15 of the State Award provides this protection and even provides examples to assist management work out what all this means - specifically, if the car was offered "as an incentive to attract and/or retain the employee" and "the period the employee has access to the vehicle”. This new clause means that virtually all of our members will have cars as a condition of employment and the longer you have a car, the more entrenched that entitlement becomes.

But someone thought that if they told the member that he didn't have the car as a condition of employment then he could be bluffed and would accept the 12 months notice.

We reported briefly in the December issue about attempts by Singleton Council to remove an entitlement for Indoor Staff to three days concession leave over Christmas/New Year, which they had enjoyed as an entitlement under Council policy since 1984. We stopped the Council removing this entitlement in 2011 and ensured that if they want to do anything at all about it in 2012 and subsequently, they need to negotiate with the unions.

This was a messy dispute. Representatives of the Outdoor Staff thought it made sense to have Indoor Staff forfeit some of these days so that the Council could then provide a similar arrangement for the Outdoor Staff - clearly it didn't occur to anyone at the time that the best way of establishing an equitable practice is to bring everyone together on the better standard.

The Council also mistakenly thought that they could remove this entitlement with a resolution of the Consultative Committee - something the Committee did at meetings not attended by our representative, nor that of the LGEA. Charming.

But our proceedings in the Industrial Relations Commission late last year foiled this and subsequently the Council agreed to reinstate the entitlement for 2011 and think about it again in 2012.

If an employee starts work at a Council and there is a condition of employment contained in a Council policy, then that becomes a condition of employment for anyone employed while ever that policy exists. Having an entitlement under Council policy is the best and longest-lasting way of protecting an entitlement.

Entitlements can only be protected for the duration of an industrial instrument like an Award, or an Enterprise Agreement or even a Council Agreement under the Local Government (State) Award but if you have a council policy, it's very, very hard for a Council to remove it. They can decide that they won't provide it to new employees but it is virtually untouchable of those who already have it.

Please contact the office for advice if you find yourself in a similar situation.

We all have a pretty good idea about the changes to the certification system that the BPB wants to introduce from March 2013 – to make it more difficult to keep working in doing what you are doing unless you stay where you are now and all based on the idea that because people do full-time "certifying" in all the other states and privately, you lot in local government (even though you do more than everyone else in Australia) need to get with the program.

A program that is antagonistic to the multiskilled local government practitioner as we know it in NSW because the BPB wants national consistency, up you for the rent.

All general managers received a letter dated 21 December advising of a series of forums to be conducted across the State during February and into early March. The Board wants you to have "direct input into the future scope of the certification system in NSW”.

So much more satisfying for them to let you have direct input so that they can ignore your wishes. BPB Chair Sue Holliday made it abundantly clear last year to depa representatives at our usual post Board meeting briefing that these changes would be happening in March 2013 and we had better get used to it.

Still, you should go and tell them what you think. If you think it’s the end of the world as we know it, tell them.

The sessions will be held at the following locations and dates (venues still to be confirmed):

Ballina 13 February 2012
Port Macquarie 15 February 2012
Tamworth 17 February 2012
Dubbo 20 February 2012
Katoomba 22 February 2012
Parramatta 24 February 2012
Wollongong 27 February 2012
Queanbeyan 29 February 2012
Wagga Wagga 2 March 2012
Sydney 5 March 2012
Newcastle 6 March 2012
Broken Hill 9 March 2012



The question is really when is an inoffensive word an offensive word?

Last year we had an argument with Canterbury where they asserted that a word like "petite" was unacceptable and a breach of the Code of Conduct. The Council has withdrawn that allegation so now everyone's getting back to business with the usual unacceptable and offensive language that is part of every modern workplace. No real guidance provided by the moral guardians at Canterbury unfortunately.

We know that sometimes the most inoffensive electronic transmissions are intercepted in councils and we know there is a risk every time we send a depaNews or an email and make reference to the BPB CEO. Something we’re not going to do now.

But check out how Alfred Hitchcock and Charles Dickens fared in Virgin Media’s electronic program guide:

The only option I see is avoiding the obvious solutions

We are all pretty familiar with the story of Admiral Horatio Nelson famously turning a blind eye to something he didn't want to see. Blinded in one eye early in his Royal Navy career, in 1801 during the Battle of Copenhagen, Nelson was ordered by a less aggressive Admiral giving him the discretion to withdraw. At the time, orders were conveyed by signal flags and Nelson famously lifted his telescope to his blind eye and said "I really do not see the signal" and his forces continued to attack.

When the NSW Government decided to bring together general managers and mayors from across the State they called it Destination 2036 because the talkfest was intended to construct a vision towards a better structured and more efficient local government in 25 years time. What a pity they focused their invitations on the two groups with the most to lose - general managers and mayors.

What a pity Minister Don Page and Premier Barry O’Farrell chose to not see the signal.

If you bother to read the Destination 2036 Outcomes Report you won't be surprised to see that the outcomes are carefully crafted proposals aimed at restructuring employment practices by herding "back office" (and some wag thinks that means the role of the GM) or wages staff or whatever into shared arrangements but leaving untouched the anachronistic and inefficient boundaries of the 152 local government areas in New South Wales.

depa has always been sceptical about the resistance to amalgamation and supportive of larger, well-financed councils that can better provide best practice conditions of employment and pay employees properly so they can attract and retain them in markets where skills are in short supply.

Too much for the International Judge

It would be easy if human resources managers understood that their role wasn't just bludgeoning the workforce. Imagine if they thought it made sense to support and encourage the development of their employees and not just hammering them into templates, cutting costs and cutting opportunities.

It would also be easy if we could separate out those who are more incompetent than they are malicious. Are they bad and nasty people or just stupid?

And hopeless HR doesn't just depend upon HR managers. Many HR managers (oh, all right then) some HR managers really do try to do the right thing but don't have much of an option if the Director Corporate Services or the General Manager is a nasty piece of work, or a dope, or a sadist intent on wreaking havoc and misery and driving employees somewhere else.

So, no wonder our acclaimed International Judging Panel (and particularly the international member) found it very, very hard to separate some serious contenders this year.

Nominated this year were....


The issue that led to the clumsy investigation by the Council of our delegate and Manager Jim Boyce last year was a generous gift by members to Jim. It was a generous acknowledgement for his time and effort in having all of our positions upgraded in a lengthy exercise using the 00Soft job evaluation system and resulting in significant pay increases to all members. Basically when the positions were evaluated after 1992 they were all placed on one level below where they should be in the Award.

Some people at the Council found it unbelievable that employees, happy with the results of Jim’s work and enthusiastic to recognise it, would reward him with a generous cash gift. No one ever rewarded them!


In the 1980s we had 800 members. We recruited our 1000th member in that decade and membership numbers went up, and then down after 1996 when members took the opportunity to flee the rigors of local government and have a go at private certification – you know, put everything in your partner’s name, approve everything (and not even have to go to the site!) and make some money.

The gradual but increasing proportion of planners since we started accepting planners as members a decade or so ago has meant that in October we came very, very close to reaching 1300 members.

So Louise emailed all of our delegates offering a $50 incentive to go out and recruit someone to be the 1300th member. Something a bit better than our standard bottle of wine for recruiting a couple of new members and considerably less than what seems to have been the practice in rewarding purchasing officers across the industry – no televisions or electronic devices delivered to your home from depa.

Within 40 minutes of the e-mail going out, our long-standing delegate at Randwick Council John Skene recruited Scott Williamson. Thanks John and welcome Scott. And to show what a good bloke John is, he donated the $50 to the Children’s Cancer Institute of Australia.  Nice one. John has worked in local government since 1976 and a member since 1991 after abandoning a career in HR – clearly his good values and caring attitude didn’t fit too well - working at Bankstown and Randwick since 2002.

Scott is a planner too, so there’s something about the diversity of our membership when an experienced health and building surveyor recruits a young planner.

In a way it’s a shame they are both blokes (because this is no longer a blokes’ organisation) but in the last membership report to the Committee of Management meeting two weeks ago, there were 23 men and 26 women new recruits. Our Committee has two women members of nine but for proper proportional representation we could do with one or two more when the elections are held next year.

There was still no recruitment of new members at Orange.

Conciliation before Justice Marks in the NSW Industrial Relations Commission on 28 September has removed from Canterbury the risk that simple, unobnoxious and inoffensive words like "petite" and "attractive" are a breach of the Council’s Code of Conduct. We always thought that was nonsense and that if this issue ever went to arbitration the Council would be a laughing stock and, with the assistance of the Commission, the Council has changed its view.

While this ludicrous issue arose from specific allegations against an individual member, the imprecision and the broad effects of the allegation meant that everyone at the Council was really at risk. Golly, we all let a little bit of ripe language slip sometimes, don't we?

Not much gee whiz, blimey, gosh, rats or other Victorian niceties these days.

While Canterbury agreed to remove this as an allegation they have not yet positively responded to our suggestions that we would support a general campaign at the Council for more sensitive and civil communication.


Our dispute at Blayney this year had all the negative characteristics of working in local government.

Unacceptable behaviour by a councillor; a failure by the Mayor to control a meeting; a general manager in a coma failing to remind the Mayor of his responsibility; a reluctance by the errant councillors (and the comatose general manager) to acknowledge and apologise for their mistakes; bans and then a strike by members in support of the Director as a fellow member; tampering with the minutes of the meeting to misrepresent what had happened at the meeting; the intervention of the Industrial Relations Commission; the intervention of the Division of Local Government also at our request; a new set of minutes to restore what had really happened rather than the fraudulent cover-up; a walkout by a general manager who had enough of being caught between the staff and the Council etc etc.

Yes please, I want to work at a place like that! Destination 2036 should have looked at Blayney when they were looking to create a viable, efficient industry which is an employer of choice over the next 25 years.

It might have been lame, it was invariably pathetic, it was a little bit shameful and it had to be squeezed out of them, but Gosford has provided a written apology to our member involved in the hapless investigation by the Council’s conga line of incompetents carried out earlier this year. We reported on it in August.

The letter from the Acting General Manager noted that he wanted to "extend an apology to you for a number of shortcomings associated with this matter" and begrudgingly "acknowledge that the investigation took place over an extended period of time." Well durr.

Why is it so hard for people who stuff something up to acknowledge it, apologise and get on with it?

Last week Local Government Super launched a refurbishment of 76 Berry Street North Sydney with a gas-powered tri-generation system that simultaneously generates electricity, heating and cooling. The tri-generation plant will cut the building's emissions by 85% and it is expected to be independent of the grid within 12 months.


Local Government Amendment Bill 2011 creates chaos and madness

The NSW Government introduced the Local Government Amendment Bill 2011 into the Legislative Assembly on Thursday 13 October. Part of the Bill proposes "to convert the status of councils and county councils from their existing status as bodies politic of the State to bodies corporate" and it is this object which drew a dramatic response yesterday from the United Services Union. 

Apparently this part of the Bill has the support of the Local Government and Shires Association and the LGSA claims that the sole purpose of this part of the Bill was to ensure that councils will once again become eligible to apply for Federal Government funding. In a Media Release by the Minister for Local Government late yesterday, the Minister claimed that this was "a move requested by the Local Government and Shires Associations."

Apparently the changes to the status of councils as part of a defence against WorkChoices created fundamental problems in making grant applications. It would have been a good idea if the LGSA told us all beforehand but apparently the LGSA wasn’t aware of the Bill until Wednesday. We knew they wanted the change – we just didn’t know that it would happen without notice and the chance to deal with any confusion.

There is a good summary of the LGSA proposal, accepting that it would not have an effect on employees without amendment to the Federal Act, in their NSW Election Priorities document put before both sides prior to the State election.  Shame I didn’t get it until 7 o’clock last night.

It would also have been nice, given the vulnerability of local government employees in the bad old WorkChoices days, for the Minister to have consulted with, or at least advised, the three unions covering employees in the industry. The assurance could have been provided that, without accompanying changes to the Fair Work Act 2009 by the Federal Government, this would not mean the bundling of local government employees out of the NSW Industrial Relations system and into the Federal system - something that none of us, including the employers’ organisations - want.

But that didn't happen and now there is a significant problem to manage. The Bill also identified as one of its objects the reduction in the special period of protection for employees of amalgamated councils. This is something introduced by the previous Government and, while that protection is comforting for vulnerable employees, it has been an impediment to amalgamations. We should have also been told about that too.

You can believe this:

  1. Regardless of whether a council is a "body politic" or a "body corporate", an Order made by the Federal Government pursuant to the Fair Work Act 2009, means that local government employees in New South Wales remain protected by the NSW industrial relations system and the awards and enterprise agreements made in that system.
  2. The Local Government Amendment Bill 2011 does not change this and cannot change this.
  3. Local government employees remain protected by the Federal Order until a decision of the Federal Parliament (either with Labor retreating on the agreement to introduce this Order in 2009 or, perish the thought, the Opposition with sufficient support from the Independents) rescinds the Order.
  4. It is impossible to believe that the current Government would rescind it - but it is entirely possible that it would be rescinded after a change of government at the next Federal election in 2013.

The failure of the NSW Government to consult - and particularly that of a new Minister in whom we had relatively high expectations - is very disappointing. It's an easy process to talk to people and, particularly where imprecision and anxiety can lead to different interpretations, it was a bad mistake. Doubly so, given the intention to remove the amalgamation protections and also make some changes to pecuniary interest declarations. A phone call or email would have done.

It was predictable that at some stage there would be amendments to the Local Government Act that may have an effect upon employment. At Destination 2036 there was discussion about establishing bodies corporate which could, for example, employ adjoining councils’ wages staff (or even planning staff or anyone else, for that matter) and depending on how that occurred, and what style of organisation that became, there could be a vulnerability under the Federal System. That needs proper thought and consultation.

The Division of Local Government on 21 September sent a circular to councils headed "DESTINATION 2036 UPDATE" which, amongst other things, asked for comments on the "draft Vision contained in the Outcomes Report" by 4 November 2011. At the very least, it makes sense for the Government to have waited until the consultation period concluded before moving on this Bill.

We will keep you briefed.

You can use the links below to read:



Canterbury Council's general manager Jim Montague is spearheading a drive back to Victorian England by introducing new standards for communication amongst employees. Paralleling the genteelism of a previous era (and an ethnocentric focus on nice white Anglo-Saxons), when they preferred the word "unmentionables" to the word "underwear", Jim has decided that the words "attractive" and "petite" are a breach of the Council’s Code of Conduct. And so is the expression "high maintenance". What the?

You can expect lots of potty-mouth employees having their mouths washed out by HR with this new standard.

We accept the view that a cultured and advanced society communicates in a cultured and sensitive way. Whether language is acceptable or unacceptable is usually in the eye of the beholder and fundamentally appropriate or inappropriate only when it is placed in context.

Canterbury is caught up and confused about language. There are some contexts that come with a language warning. Without pandering too much to stereotypes, the language used out on the road in a gang is generally stronger than that used by professional employees. But professional employees are quite capable of getting down and dirty with the best of them, and it is appropriate if the context is right. It might be okay in the pub but it's not okay with Grandma.

We just went through an exercise of an investigation of a member after a complaint was made at Canterbury. The area in which the member works was formerly housed in the depot where, regardless of sensitivities, it was all very blokey and outdoors. A move to the administrative centre at Belmore a couple of years ago saw our member, amongst others, issuing some guidelines about the new etiquette and the new context. Steps were taken regularly to ask the fruity communicators to take it outside.

depa would support any council that wanted to initiate an educational program to improve the quality of communication at work. It would be developed through the Consultative Committee, union reps on the Consulted Committee would be communicating with their members and when the new standards were introduced, everyone could get on board.

There could be a swear jar in every office. Gosh, what a great idea.

But the idea that a new standards is to be adopted, as it has at Canterbury, and then the new standard applied retrospectively, is fundamentally unfair. A bit like retrospectively imposing an 80 km speed limit in an area that was previously 100 km and then booking people who exceeded 80 when it was legal to do so. No one would think that acceptable.

Sadly, things don’t seem to get any better at Greater Taree.  A bad year last year with a clumsy investigation and the ambushing of staff in interviewing them, a strike by our members, some unpleasant and dishonest effects from the restructure carried out earlier in the year, and then squandering money on lawyers who would rather litigate than conciliate reasonable claims that could assist staff morale. 

And then the Council resolved to knock off a gratuity policy for resigning employees that had been around nearly forever and in the face of the unanimous opposition of long-serving staff and their three unions. Charming.

And now having two unanimous recommendations from selection panels for new appointments overthrown by the senior managers.  Why have a panel of people who know about the work and interview the candidates if you’re then going to reject their unanimous recommendation?

Our members are wondering what the point is of sitting on a selection panel if the director (called an executive leader there) and the GM (mercifully still called a GM) reject it.  Neither of these managers hold any professional qualification in health, building or planning anyway.

There has been community unrest too as assessment times blow out.  And they blow out because the Council isn’t serious about replacing people who go to better places. Even though it advertises a salary range that could attract suitable candidates, they refuse to appoint at above entry level.  So they get no-one much, end up spending more money to fruitlessly advertise but with the same salary restrictions and 60% of the establishment staff end up carrying the load.

So morale plummets precisely because of management policies – something that seems to have escaped the Mayor who accepts that “staff morale could be better” but famously asserted to the Manning River Times that he ‘fully supports the senior staff in their actions to improve staff morale”. What the?

Start with a policy of no forced amalgamations and entice 152 general managers and mayors, some representatives of the Local Government and Shires Associations (more councillors from the councillors lobby group) and the Local Government Managers Association (more bean counters from the managers lobby group) to Dubbo for a couple of days and what do you get?

Well, it's a bit hard get the full picture to the yet but one thing you'll get is a review of that policy which may result in forced amalgamations, a broader and more dramatic commitment to resource sharing and potentially significant changes across the State. And, you might get some changes to the Local Government Act as well.

The Division of Local Government didn't invite the three local government unions to participate in the Dubbo talkfest. Historically they aren't very good at involving the unions in things that are clearly industrial in nature - such as the development of the Model Code of Conduct, or the Standard Contract for Senior Officers etc - so no one was surprised that all we got was notice that the talkfest was on and the DLG assuring us that if anything resulted of an industrial nature, they would let us know.

The Government announced that it had established a Review into the Act and appointed former Liberal member for Gordon Tim Moore and former ALP member of the Legislative Council Ron Dyer to conduct it. We met with them on 12 August at their invitation as part of speaking to organisations in the industry with an interest. They wanted a broad brush discussion.

The Committee of Management had met earlier in the day and we had that discussion. It was also timely for the Committee to appoint our Gosford delegate Jo Doheny to a vacant position on the Committee because Jo is a strategic planner. The Committee resolved some broad approaches, these are incorporated into a some broad observations and Paul O'Brien, Jo Doherny and I had an hour and a half with the Review that afternoon.

The Review is starting with a blank page. Apparently with no direction from Government but with a claimed open mind about how planning and development should be managed in the State.

It would have been unrealistic to assume that the relatively benign process established by the BPB to accredit council employees would continue forever. It would also be unrealistic to expect that the zealots on the BPB might contemplate how the accreditation of council employees process has gone, whether it has added value to the quality of development control and the construction of buildings, or whether it has been largely irrelevant, before they went any further.

But no. The BPB remains committed to rolling new council employees, or employees trying to upgrade their category of accreditation, over to exactly the same qualification and experience  requirements as private certifiers.

This, despite the industry having told them for years that while private certifiers do certifying full-time, council employees do many, many other things. While requirements for someone doing something full-time may need to be rigorous because if they don't do anything else they don't need training or qualifications in those other areas, forcing that degree of rigour onto someone who does it only for part of the job, makes no sense.

Gosford Council has accepted the recommendations made by IRC President Justice Boland after their dawdling, hopeless and sub-professional investigation of one of our members (read the letter from Gosford here).

A well-attended meeting of depa members at Gosford (we have 35 members there) on 3 August resolved unanimously not to have any role in any investigation conducted by the Council until the investigation policy and practices are reviewed with the unions consistent with the recommendation of Justice Boland.

But Gosford being Gosford can't seem to do anything quickly and it led to an interesting communication as we tried to hurry things along with their Director of Organisational Development Terry Thirlwell. It certainly put a smile on the faces of our members at Gosford and after all of this thoughtful stuff it might put a smile on your face too.

We will meet with Gosford at the Local Government Association’s office as part of the review on 30 August.

The bigger they are, the harder they fall.

Gosford has always been a very difficult and uncompromising Council to deal with.

It is the only Council where we had to use the Industrial Relations Commission to make them agree to a protocol in 2004 undertaking to respond to our letters. It’s the Council in 2002 that insisted on putting managers on contracts where we made them insert, for the first time, a clause saying that the contract would be renewed if the employee performed satisfactorily and it’s the Council, in 2000 after a long-running dispute involving depa complaints to WorkCover, we made spend $1.1 million on a new air-conditioning system in their Administrative Centre in Gosford.

All this time, the human resources management policies have been hard and unwavering.

On 29 July, the President of the Industrial Relations Commission Justice Boland, handed down a Statement and Recommendation in a dispute we had run for a member the subject of a clumsy, ineffective, biased, sub-professional and dawdling investigation.

Clearly there is a limit to how long even the most obstinate people can dig in and refuse to admit they were wrong. For Blayney Deputy Mayor Kevin "Big Kev" Radburn it was nine weeks.

It was nine weeks from his unacceptable behaviour at the 9 May meeting of Blayney Shire Council (where his observations, we believe breaching the Code of Conduct by attacking staff) and made after warnings by the Mayor until his letter to the General Manager on 19 July apologising and committing to trying to be good.

Amongst other things, Big Kev confessed:

"I now realise there may have been a better way of conveying my views to the meeting. It is obvious that the staff member has taken offence and that is a matter of regret to me. I also regret my words have been taken as an attack on the integrity of the employee concerned will stop I appreciate the efforts of staff and know we must all work together to provide good local government for Blayney Shire.

I am now better aware of my obligations in relation to Code of Conduct and staff interaction and I will be aware of those obligations in my future dealings with staff."

So, that's the way the dispute ends, not with a bang but a whimper.

There has been a lot of action at Blayney since 10 May when depa wrote to the General Manager demanding an apology from both the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor. From the Mayor, because he allowed bad behaviour at a Council meeting, and from the Deputy Mayor because he behaved badly - breaches of the Code of Conduct and the Council’s own Code of Meeting Practice aplenty.

Unhappy about the lack of application and progress by the General Manager, and a failure to return our phone call or we would make a complaint to the Division of Local Government, we made a complaint - asking the Division to deal in particular with the misrepresentation recorded within the minutes of the June meeting of the Council. As an aside, it turns out that the General Manager failed to comply with our deadline because he was in a meeting with the Mayor tendering his resignation! Apology accepted.

Despite an agreement by the three directors that none of them would be prepared to act as Acting GM, one did but he continued to exhibit the reluctance exhibited by the exiting GM to take the councillors on and to process the Code of Conduct complaint made by depa.

All this became too much and we filed a dispute which was listed before Commissioner Ritchie in the Commission on 6 July. By this stage the bans had been in place for six weeks and no one much at the Council seemed too interested in having them lifted. The bans were on any services at all to Councillor Radburn the Deputy Mayor but also to any meeting at which Councillor Radburn may be present and involved in discussions. This included a refusal to supply anything from the Environmental Services Division for the July business paper.

We went into the compulsory conference with Commissioner Ritchie with a prepared statement that had been negotiated with the Acting GM over the phone the day before. He was happy with its content, we were going to ask the Commission to issue it as a formal Statement and Recommendation and the only proviso was that the Shires Association would review it for any fine tuning. Having spoken to the Shires Association, we thought we had it under control.

But five minutes before the compulsory conference we were handed a copy of what we had understood to be the agreed statement, with amendments to 70% of the document - all primarily aimed at removing any acknowledgement of wrongdoing or guilt by either the exiting General Manager or any of the Councillors. Nice.

We have made a brief submission (only two pages) and you can see a copy here.

When the incoming Minister for Local Government Don Page announced to a packed Shires Association Conference that the first step to "shape the future of local government in New South Wales" was to invite all the mayors and general managers to Dubbo, what better possible response could there be than the famous quote from the hotelier Basil Fawlty.  (The Hotel Inspectors episode, for the enthusiasts.)

Because if you really want to do something that is an exciting initiative, something that really will shape the future of local government over the next 25 years, the last people you would want to invite would be the people with the most to lose. Particularly if you are not going to invite anyone else.

Far too many councils are trading insolvent, can't afford to reflect the demands of the market to pay to attract and retain good staff, can't afford to train staff etc etc.  Clearly someone needs to put a rocket up the amalgamation process and the last people to ask would be the people who have the big jobs and the most to lose – mayors and GMs.

How about 50 councils across the State? What was wrong with the recommendation of the Sproats’ enquiry what, 15 years ago? Who wants to change something that puts them out of a job?

50 councils, suddenly 100 fewer general managers and 1000 fewer councillors. What’s not to like?

As the news was absorbed by the industry (to the sound of mayors and general managers preening) the USU launched an attack on the one-dimensional nature of the invitation list and our own discussions with the Government revealed that they really did intend the invitations to go broader rather than restrict the Dubbo talkfest to asking the cat.

On 15 July, Canterbury GM Jim Montague presented the depa Cup to the triumphant team of three Canterbury and one ex-Canterbury members and provided a sumptuous lunch with an invitation to all depa members to attend.  We have 27 members at depa, so thanks, Jim.

It’s been a long time coming.  Originally planned to be presented by the Mayor and local Lambourgini test driver Councillor Robert Furolo, this became too hard to manage when the mayor was also elected as the local member at the NSW election.

But Jim was happy to step in. One of the old breed of general managers (and we do mean that in the nicest way) Jim has always understood the importance of protecting staff against councillors behaving badly and the sort of fiasco at Wagga Wagga last year, and Blayney this year, would never happen under his watch. Nice to see a general manager prepared to remind councillors of their proper role. There are plenty who aren't game.

Jim complemented depa and acknowledged our tradition (okay, so eight years isn't much of a tradition yet) of a sporting competition that allows all members to participate as part of the rich cultural life of local government.

Roll on Union Picnic Day Golf Day 2012.

How many times do some people need to be told? Already this morning in the office we have had two e-mails from different councils about ambitious HR/financial whizzes who think they can change the way they are calculating leaseback payments to recoup FBT increases and get around the 10% maximum fee increase provided in clause 15 of the Local Government (State) Award.

They can't.

Let's repeat that for those HR/financial whizzes who are a little bit thick or unimaginative. No, you can't.

Here is item 11 from Local Government Weekly 22/11 of 10 June. This is the old General Circular sent to all councils by the Local Government and Shires Associations.

Please note that the LGSA agrees with us. We are having continuing discussions with the LGSA about what constitutes a new contract when the increased FBT needs to be charged and we will keep you advised.

You might find this useful to forward to those of whom we might reasonably ask, "what part of no don't you understand"?

"The general manager of Blayney Shire Council, Aaron Jones, has quit suddenly in the middle of a stoush between councillors and the union over staff treatment."

So began an article in today's Sydney Morning Herald by their esteemed local government editor Harvey Grennan. (View complete article here)

We reported on the bans imposed by depa members in May and the dispute has gone from bad to worse.

After the Council meeting where the Deputy Mayor behaved badly, the general manager advised staff that he would be referring the behaviour for investigation by the Council’s external Review Panel. But actually getting the general manager to do that became more complicated than it should have.

Referred to a "Sole Reviewer" from their panel, there has been confusion about whether it was a referral by the general manager of unacceptable behaviour for their investigation, a complaint by the employee the subject of the attack by the Deputy Mayor or a complaint by depa. Apparently there was some concern that the Code of Conduct required a complaint to be "in writing" and a reluctance by the general manager to be the complainant. We think a complaint can be made by the general manager as a result of receiving complaints from staff and we have already raised this with the DLG as part of a review of the Model Code of Conduct - just to accommodate the general managers anxious not to upset councillors.

The referral of the investigation/complaint was sufficient for members to resolve to withdraw the broad part of the ban which involved services to meetings of the Council at which Councillor Radburn may participate.

At the next meeting of the Council on 13 June, rather than adopt the draft minutes prepared by staff, two councillors amended them by inserting words that certain things had occurred at the meeting in this incident which had not occurred. The seconder of the motion was the Deputy Mayor, Councillor Radburn. The motion to adopt the minutes in that form was carried and now the minutes of the meeting record something that did not occur.

History has been rewritten and the general manager announced his resignation on 28 June and left the following day.

This is what is called an "I told you so" moment. The 2010 campaign by builders and developers in Wagga Wagga, unwilling to comply with normal planning rules, has now been shown to be a beat-up and a farce.

Yesterday, Minister for Planning Brad Hazzard announced that despite the calls by the self-seekers, the boofheads, the flouters of planning laws and the scurrilous yellow press Dirty Advertiser and it's partial, sub-professional and conflicted "journalists", he would not appoint a planning administrator to Wagga Wagga City Council.

This was clearly a beat-up all along. We said as much in depaNews when we said we were confident that the complaints, like that of Peter Hurst, would be dismissed when investigated. Now they have been. And while the Sydney Morning Herald printed that quote in full, the Dirty Advertiser, as part of its partial and complicitous role in backing these miscreants, chose to remove any reference to Mr Hurst. Shame on them, obviously one Press Council finding against them wasn't enough.

It's hard to imagine that there are still councillors out there who don't understand that it is unacceptable to criticise the performance of employees at council meetings. Maybe it's because it was at Blayney, and it gets pretty damn cold at Blayney, that the Deputy Mayor Councillor Kevin Radburn thought it was okay to do precisely this.

And not only that, despite being called into line twice by Mayor Bruce Kingham, he kept doing it. This was unacceptable behaviour by the Deputy Mayor and clearly a breach of significant sections of the Code of Conduct but Director of Environment Services Paul O'Brien by that stage had had enough and left the meeting.

The announcement in the Federal Budget that the sliding scale of FBT payments based on the kilometres travelled by the car is to be scrapped and replaced with a standard 20% tax is currently being digested by the industry.

It never made any sense to have a tax which reduced if you travel more kilometres. This additional travel increased other costs and its encouragement to emit more carbon.

Already some councils are threatening employees that they will try to recoup the increases in FBT from them as part of leaseback fees but these councils are missing the point that providing employees with private use of cars clearly benefits the Council as well as the employees concerned and that this is not an appropriate course of action. Imagine a council trying to recruit you lot without offering a car.

We are in dispute again with Greater Taree City Council.

As a result of a restructure some time ago, the Council has de-skilled and removed authority from a member who was formerly a Manager and is now a team leader. He accepted the position of team leader on assurances by the Council would be virtually indistinguishable and that this would be revealed when the position description was developed. The Council has refused, despite monthly requests, to prepare the position description.

We were able to identify 18 separate responsibilities lost in the change (and that's counting the loss of all delegations only as one factor) in addition to the council's failure to honour their undertaking to prepare a position description but the council would still not agree to make the aggrieved employee redundant.

So, we filed a dispute and, for good measure, added to it two other issues that we were struggling to settle. One was an issue about an employee's right to a free commuter car arising from a letter of appointment which said she had that as an entitlement and the other was a failure of the Council to comply with the rules of their salary system when the salary system allowed two step increases but management simply decided that they didn't want to do that anymore.

The dispute was heard by Commissioner Stanton in the Industrial Relations Commission on 4 May and the Council denied everything. It was like living in Monty Python's famous Argument Sketch...


There are now eight or nine councils on the point of signing up for the trial of the Industry Guidelines – and four from the Hunter. This progress was noted when depa’s two disputes were listed for further conciliation in the Commission on 28 April.

Upper Hunter remains wedded to their obsession with urine and its tendency to fail to pick up impairment when an employee is impaired - preferring the prurient window it opens into employees’ private lives and the detection of things that have nothing to do with impairment at work.

The Commission made it clear to the Council that they need to reach agreement with the three unions about the continuation of this policy and this method of testing and not just rely on some purported local agreement. The Council seems reluctant to meet with the unions now. Brow-beating your staff in a little council where people are not experts and don’t know their rights is one thing, but trying to brow-beat the unions is another.

We make the fearless prediction that urine testing will be gone by the end of the year or, at the very latest, after the industry trial is concluded early next year.

In a real snub to union members at Hurstville Council, Pizza Man, General Manager Victor Lampe has told his HR Manager he “wouldn’t bother” responding any further to our investigation of why he shouted pizzas for the freeloaders on Union Picnic Day. In the March issue of depaNews we reported that employees at Hurstville who had chosen not to be union members, and were not entitled to Union Picnic Day under the Local Government (State) Award, were all provided with a free lunch by the General Manager.

We were interested to find out why and in the March issue said we would pursue this and publish the Council's response.

Well, it's been hard to squeeze anything out of Victor. He is far more interested in feeding people who refuse to join unions than he is of responding to us.

First, he had his HR Manager respond to our e-mail and she said "lunch was a small gesture of appreciation in the circumstances". She rejected our suggested explanations but the circumstances are intriguing.

The LGSA has had some success in using the recommendation of Deputy President Grayson in one of depa’s drug and alcohol disputes (IRC 155/11) for the Upper Hunter councils to consider participating in the forthcoming trial of the Industry Guidelines on alcohol and other drugs. We expect to be able to make a formal announcement of which councils will participate in the trial and the anticipated timeframe soon.

But so far, no progress with the urine sniffers at Upper Hunter - who remain resolutely of the view that they want to urine test everyone, including applicants for jobs, to see what they've been doing over the two or three weeks prior to the test.

Sue Cox
Gunnedah Shire Council are also prosing urine testing of all staff under their proposed policy. I also believe this is intrusive.

Local Government Super has been named the Infinity Award winner for 2011 by independent super research company SuperRatings, reinforcing its position as the leader in sustainable behaviour in the superannuation industry.

The Award was presented at the Conference of Major Super Funds last week.

The Infinity Award recognises the super fund that is leading the industry in the pursuit of genuine responsible investment principles and open communication of these processes to its members. SuperRatings assesses Infinity Award candidates based on three fixed criteria - investment, engagement and behaviour.

Bill Hartnett is the Sustainability Manager at LGS. He said he was pleased the Fund’s internal culture and sustainable and responsible investment practices are being recognised.

"LGSS has a strong and long-standing commitment to sustainability, which is guided by the vision of our Board of Trustees and the management team. Winning the Infinity Award recognises that our approach is industry best practice.”

LGS has approximately $3.1 billion invested in responsible investment strategies.

Sometimes things just slip under your guard. Even though we hadn't been consulted when Upper Hunter Shire Council introduced its drug and alcohol policy a few years ago, nor when they reviewed it last year, we knew there was some extremism at play. Without having seen the policy, we thought the extremism was the introduction of random drug and alcohol testing - something we don't like because it fails to properly target workplace risk and too often can pick up employees who are working well and enthusiastically and not doing anything wrong or creating risk.

(And it's hard not to make the aside, because often we see councils that take ages to do the simplest of tasks, many think this is an industry crying out for some performance enhancement.)

depa has had a policy for years that we are opposed to random drug and alcohol testing and, after we filed disputes with Hornsby, Sutherland and Wollongong about policy issues generally, we were pleased when the USU took up the challenge. As a result, through 2009 and 2010 the three local government unions and the Local Government Association and Shires Association developed Industry Guidelines, agreed by the peak employers organizations and the three local government unions in an admirable consensus, for the guidance of the industry.

In the August issue of depaNews we reported that we had written (our letter of 25 August) to the Department of Local Government requesting the review of the anti-discrimination provisions in the Local Government Act. These provisions were drafted in 1993, had not been reviewed, and specifically required councils to act to eliminate discrimination in employment "on the grounds of race, sex, marital status and disability".

Our concern was that since 1993 the Anti-Discrimination Act had made unlawful a number of additional areas of discrimination (in particular, being discriminated against because of an employee’s responsibilities as a carer) which were not acknowledged in the Local Government Act and, because section 346 provides that in the event of any inconsistency between a Council’s EEO management plan and the provisions of the anti-Discrimination Act, then the Council’s management plan prevails. We thought this had the potential of rendering invalid those areas of unlawful discrimination included in the Anti-Discrimination Act since 1993

We said in August that because the Division of Local Government likes to put the clock on local government performance, we would put the clock on them.

Our letter was dated 25 August and their response to us was dated 9 February and without getting too particular, that’s just over 23 weeks - or about 115 working days. Just as well the Minister’s Committee on Women in Local Government encouraged them to be quick about it!

Anyway, they tell us that we were wrong and that we needn't worry. See their response here.

Well, we are reluctant to get involved in this debate too heavily because observations we made last year about the inappropriateness of a Council assessing its own development applications drew some criticism. Some of it was very vigorous - we had no idea how things work in the bush, we didn't care about how council costs would blow out if they had to get someone else from another council to come and look at the job, etc.

We understand now that it is cheaper for a Council to use its own staff to assess its own applications and certify their employer complies with the conditions of consent. We think it still makes the industry vulnerable to attacks from private certifiers who we complain are prejudiced when they accept money from the people for whom they are doing the job.

We also know that there are employees in the industry who would welcome prohibition in this area because they had been pressured to approve and certify things they would have rather not approved or certified. It's a bit of a two-edged sword really.

The BPB has temporary guidelines in place and has written to all councils, and e-mailed every council employee who is an accredited certifier and put five options:

Option 1: No exemption for any council

Option 2: Exempt regional and rural councils only

Option 3: Exempt all councils (for work) up to a certain value

Option 4: Partial exemption to allow councils to act as the Principle Certifying Authority

Option 5: Existing exemption (permit Council accredited certifiers to undertake Council and council employees’ certification work), or

Option 6: Another option.

The Committee of Management considered this potentially no-win question at the meeting on 11 February and we will be advising the BPB that we believe it appropriate for Council employees to certify applications filed by other employers of the Council and that, when it comes to assessing and certifying the Council’s own Development Applications, we encourage regional cooperation to ensure the proper management of conflicts of interest.

depaCup Winners CanterburyFour members from Canterbury Council have won the depa Cup at the 2011 Union Picnic Day Golf Day at Blackheath on Friday 11 March. And by a handsome margin too.

The eighth depa Golf Day was contested by 17 teams (including two teams from Shoalhaven and the longest drivers of all, a team from Bega Valley) and the Canterbury players - Steve Arnold, Greg Liddle, George Kalivitis and our delegate Stephen Pratt, triumphed. Greg also won the prize for closest to the pin on the second shot.

The longest drive was won by Alex Williams from North Sydney and the closest to the pin by Stephen Cullen from The Hills. Stephen was actually second closest to the pin – and Ross di Mauro from Liverpool, who was closest to the pin, learns the hard lesson that you have to be there for the presentation to win the prize.

Local Government Super provides some sponsorship towards the event and the prizes were awarded by LGS CEO Peter Lambert. To view all photos from the day click here.

Tactical Response Group?Wow, who wouldn't want to join the Tactical Response Group? Those hot, body-hugging overalls identifying you as TRG tucked into your butch boots, the big guns, the reputation of being an action person? “I work for the TRG darl’, bit hush hush”, who’d miss out with a line like that? Phwoarr!

We got quite excited when we received a letter from the BPB asking us to nominate someone for their TRG. Our relationships with those at the BPB get better by the day but here was an opportunity to dress up too!

But when it was clear that their TRG actually stood for their Technical Reference Group - a committee which provides feedback to the Board on issues with proposed changes in legislation or that require changes in legislation or areas to improve the certification system, the euphoria vanished like a smile off Benji Marshall's face - as SMH wine writer Huon Hooke descriptively observed in the Good Living section yesterday. Nice line, Huon.

The Committee of Management invites expressions of interest from members who may be interested in participating in this less glamorous but nevertheless essential and valuable role. We need to have a nomination to them by 30 March and we need a summary of your qualifications and experience.

Victor Lampe delivers pizzasEmployees are entitled to join a union or not to join a union. In the olden days in local government and other areas there used to be a preference of employment clause for union members that provided, all other things being equal, if two candidates were applying for a job, then the union member got the job. This reflected the preference at the time for employers to deal with registered organisations of employees.

The Preference of Employment clauses were deleted from the Local Government Awards more than a decade and a half ago and now whether an employee joins the union or not, is purely a voluntary decision. We can't make people, we can only encourage them. That keeps us on our toes, working hard and telling people what we do.

Sometimes encouraging people to be a member isn't easy. After all, whether employees are union members or not, they get the benefits that result from negotiation by the unions of the Awards or Enterprise Agreements, the benefits of the precedents set in industrial disputes like our recent dispute at Wagga Wagga, pay increases and progression under the provisions required in salary system etc etc.

Every benefit inserted in the Award when negotiated between the LGSA and the unions flows through to everyone - whether they contribute through fees to the appropriate union or not. Sometimes there is no limit to how much the freeloaders are prepared to accept.

“… the question now is whether it would be unjust or unreasonable for the company to implement the urine-based random testing regime with its wide "window of protection", with all that implies for interfering with the private lives of employees, when a much more focused method is available, where a positive test is far more likely to indicate actual impairment, and is far less likely to detect the use of drugs at the time that would have no consequential effect on the employee's performance at work."

nurse holding urine YUK!This is an extract from the decision of Senior Deputy President Hamburger in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission in Shell Refining v CFMEU. The Commission, in a decision which is now the Federal authority, found that it would be unjust or unreasonable to move beyond the existing saliva testing regime to the less effective and more intrusive urine-testing.

We couldn't have put it better. The most effective method of testing for impairment at work is saliva because urine gives no indication of how recently a drug was taken. While it might let you know who-did-what two weeks ago, it doesn't let you know who-did-what just before they came to work. As the AIRC appreciates, it fails to be an effective test of impairment at work and is overwhelmed by the negatives of invading the privacy of employees with findings that have no effect on the employee's performance at work.


Look out, Peter Hurst could be coming to a town near you!

In December’s depaNews we announced that the long-running Wagga Wagga dispute was over. The Industrial Relations Commission on 16 December issued Orders against the Council which required them, within 28 days, to have the statement agreed between depa and the Council (and endorsed by the Commission) published in the Daily Advertiser as a paid advertisement.

But the Daily Advertiser, still stinging from the humiliation of the Press Council giving them a kicking about their failure to provide impartial reporting on the Council and planning issues anyway, refused to accept the ad. This was something neither we, the Council, nor the Commission contemplated.

After a meeting of members on 11 January, we wrote to the GM encouraging him to do precisely these things and advising a meeting of members had unanimously resolved to ban all services to Peter Hurst and his company until he apologised (as he had originally said he would when the complaint was dismissed and the Commission recommended that the Council seek an apology or the Council publish the advertisement required by the Orders by the Commission. And then the proverbial hit the fan. Instead of doing something in the interests of their employees, the Council’s General Manager Phil Pinyon gave a written direction to one of our members to find another Council which might be prepared to process the application for them.

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