And that’s it for us this year

The depa office will be closing on Friday 20 December and reopening on Monday 6 January 2020 and we’ll be back with full services sometime after that in January.

The Committee of Management and Margaret and I in the office wish you all a happy, restful, rewarding Xmas/New Year with friends and loved ones, and a joyous and energetic return in 2020 - just like we can guarantee you.

Bumper holiday reading - 2019 depa awards for the Worst HR in Local Government

This is the eleventh year that the prestigious and envied Golden Turd will be awarded.

How's HR been this year?

A bit of everything really:

We’ve seen it all, poor management and HR driving people from jobs; a lack of imagination and support for staff; micromanagement; quashing new ideas; failing to consult and being made to do it all again properly, particularly on organisational change, and consistent with clause 39 of the State Award; conducting investigations that shouldn’t have been conducted; some more wage theft, a couple of attempts at time theft at a couple of councils; bloody mindedness; senior staff sacked all over the place under their unfair contract, and possibly more blood to come.

One of our big issues is supporting flexibility at work for parents - something boasted about as a commitment by many councils but not always provided. Some rigid mindedness from bosses who really mean “the bloke goes to work, the sheila stays at home, just like I did, and my dad before me, and his dad before him”. Leaving aside the inherent misogyny and sexism, we’ve even seen a lack of imagination and support for mums, with one Council, demonstrating why 75% of workers who leave their jobs do so because of their bosses, and not the position itself.

Read more ...

Next month

depa’s highly respected and authoritative HR awards will be announced next month.

Public Accountability Committee’s first report makes 17 recommendations

The Legislative Council Public Accountability Committee Regulation of building standards, building quality and building disputes handed down its first report on 13 November. There are 17 recommendations including addressing the issue of flammable cladding, strengthening the Building Commission as an independent statutory body “with broad powers and sufficient resourcing and funding to oversee and regulate the building and construction industry”, and more.

Here is a link.

Supreme Court reserves its decision on Narrabri’s jurisdictional argument

As you know, we filed a section 106 Unfair Contract application in the Supreme Court after the sacking of a senior staff member of ours by Narrabri GM, and President of Local Government Professionals, Stewart Todd, and that Narrabri’s first argument was that our application be quashed because the Supreme Court didn’t have the jurisdiction to hear it.

This would be an argument despite a history of regular section 106 applications from local government in the Industrial Relations Commission, and after the Court function was transferred to the Supreme Court, in the Supreme Court. And significantly regular applications, and regular settlements.

On 15 November, Associate Judge Harrison heard the Council’s argument and our response. A decision is reserved but not likely before the end of the year.

Plenty of time for bloodshed under the standard contract in the meantime.

Local Government Super appoints a new Chief Executive Officer

LGS has announced the appointment of a new Chief Executive Officer, Phil Stockwell. Phil is a highly regarded person from financial services with whom I had the pleasure of sitting on the Regnan board a decade or more ago. Welcome Phil.

In the last issue we expressed our surprise at a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, ostensibly to announce the appointment of an independent Chair of LGS, that said “the $12 billion fund amended its constitution in June to make board changes following a probe into its governance by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA)”

A probe? This was a surprise, given the careful language we needed to use trying to explain to members why, despite our historic opposition to the concept of “independent” directors, LGS had decided to do it. Apparently it was the Herald’s word, it wasn’t provided in the media release by LGS.

In June, unknown to us, LGS in an earlier media release announced they were going to reduce the size of the board and appoint an “independent” Chair and two “independent” directors “to more effectively meet APRA’s requirements around superannuation governance”. The media release acknowledges “APRA’s recent guidance and expectations”.

Well, that was more than I could tell you. And I couldn’t tell you that I had carefully drafted advice to members seeking the approval of the  █████████ ██████████ ██████████ █████████ ██████ before ██ ██████ ████ ███ ███████ ██ █████ ███ ███ ████ ████████████ ████ ██████ ███ █████ ██████ ███ █████ ██ ██ ████████ █████ ████ ███████ ████ █████ ██ ██ ████, ████ ██ ████ ███ ██████, ███████ ██ ███████ █████ █████ █ ███ ███████

Or anything else about the regulator, whether they have done anything, or haven’t done anything, ███████ ██ ███ ██████ ██████████ ██ ███████ ██ ██ ███ ████ ███, one dare not speak its name.

Local Government Super appoints a new Chief Executive Officer (2)

LGS has announced the appointment of a new Chief Executive Officer, Phil Stockwell. Phil is a highly regarded person from financial services with whom I had the pleasure of sitting on the Regnan board a decade or more ago. Welcome Phil.

In the last issue we expressed our surprise at a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, ostensibly to announce the appointment of an independent Chair of LGS, that said “the $12 billion fund amended its constitution in June to make board changes following a probe into its governance by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA)”

A probe? This was a surprise, given the careful language we needed to use trying to explain to members why, despite our historic opposition to the concept of “independent” directors, LGS had decided to do it. Apparently it was the Herald’s word, it wasn’t provided in the media release by LGS.

In June, unknown to us, LGS in an earlier media release announced they were going to reduce the size of the board and appoint an “independent” Chair and two “independent” directors “to more effectively meet APRA’s requirements around superannuation governance”. The media release acknowledges “APRA’s recent guidance and expectations”.

Well, that was more than I could tell you. And I couldn’t tell you that I had carefully drafted advice to members seeking the approval of the  █████████ ██████████ ██████████ █████████ ██████ before ██ ██████ ████ ███ ███████ ██ █████ ███ ███ ████ ████████████ ████ ██████ ███ █████ ██████ ███ █████ ██ ██ ████████ █████ ████ ███████ ████ █████ ██ ██ ████, ████ ██ ████ ███ ██████, ███████ ██ ███████ █████ █████ █ ███ ███████. 

Or anything else about the regulator, whether they have done anything, or haven’t done anything, ███████ ██ ███ ██████ ██████████ ██ ███████ ██ ██ ███ ████ ███, one dare not speak its name.

A word about wage theft

Recent months have seen an unprecedented level of exposure of dramatic underpayments by what had previously thought to be respectable institutions - Woolworth’s had admitted it underpaid about 5700 staff up to $300 million and this followed Qantas, the Commonwealth Bank, Bunnings and the empires of the famous chefs Neil Perry and George Colombaris.

The immediate response by those who did know better was that the award system was too complex for major corporations who, at the same time, were quite capable of handling millions of customers and turnover of billions of dollars. This included the head of the Business Council of Australia who described this theft as “inadvertent payroll mistakes” because the industrial relations system was “too complex”, with “122 awards, multiple agreements, multiple clauses”. This was supported by the head of the Australian Retailers Association ripping into the “lack of flexibility in awards when interpreted literally”.

This is all a hoax. A cover up. How can it be that there are never “inadvertent payroll mistakes” of this magnitude where employees are overpaid?

In local government we see less dramatic examples regularly. Councils asserting that there is some kind of loading on a rate of pay for forfeiting overtime, or working reasonable additional hours but then they can’t justify it by demonstrating how much it is, or how it sits properly on a salary system rate of pay. Only this week, in fact.

In a great article in The Conversation on 11 November, Professor of Workplace Law at RMIT University Anthony Forsyth defended the system as not as complex as employers claim and that businesses have made things more complex for themselves by trying to annualise salary arrangements to incorporate overtime, penalty rates and a variety of loadings.

And even though the practice is nowhere near as prevalent in local government, employees are entitled to be sceptical when the boss comes along offering a rate of pay said to include a market component, something in lieu of overtime, something for forfeiting RDOs etc.

Sound familiar, need some help? Give us a ring.

Premier to announce “the simplest and most effective planning system in Australia”

We woke to the news that Premier Gladys Berejiklian was announcing yet another review of the planning system in a speech sometime today to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia – whatever that is. We will try to restrain our cynicism that references to things like “including reducing assessment timeframes” means little more than unchaining the monsters and you lot, professional planners, protectors of the environment and building regulators, and the communities and their interests, can just bloodywell get out of the way.

It could be a lovely idea. It could be another boring review achieving nothing (always reminding us of David Shoebridge’s comment years ago that the government, on planning reform, was like a dog returning to its own vomit) or we could be very afraid.

Oh no, more “independent” LGS directors

In November last year we emailed members to explain how an “independent” Chair would be appointed to the LGS Board. Historically we’ve made our view known in depaNews that we don’t believe there is a role for directors on the board other than representing the employers and the employees in the industry. The Superannuation Industry Supervision Act 1993 requires that directors act independently (so what’s the point?) but the major regulator of superannuation funds, the Australian Prudent Regulation Authority (APRA) despite getting a bit of a serve from the Royal Commission, sees it as desirable. And if APRA thinks it desirable, funds had better get with the program.

In November last year we stressed to members that our director on the LGS Board at the time Sam Byrne had opposed this, as had I at the meeting of the shareholders, both Sam and I being rolled 7-1.

For reasons that can’t be explained fully, the expectation that this “independent” person would be appointed Chair of the Board by February 2019 was not realised. Only last week were members advised that two “independent” directors had been appointed, one as Chair, Kyle Loades, and one other as a director, Sandi Orleow. In the material sent to members and shareholders, there was no reference made to whether these directors had any interest, experience or passion for the concepts of responsible and sustainable investment that underpins LGS and its reputation.

During the year, and again being careful, there was a majority view of the Board and the Shareholders that there should be three employer directors and three employee directors, meaning that one employer director and one employee would need to resign. In the circumstances, the depa Committee of Management accepted that we’d had enough and our director Sam Byrne resigned effective 31 July .

We thank Sam for his service on our behalf and his commitment to responsible and sustainable investment.

The LGS Board will now be comprised of three employer representatives, three employee representatives and three “independent” representatives, one of whom will be the Chair. Someone’s mission is accomplished.

But despite our reluctance, the Sydney Morning Herald today announced these appointments in its Money section, under the heading “Local Government gets new chair, director”. Significantly, the article said:

The moves come after the $12 billion fund amended its constitution in June to make board changes following a probe into its governance by the Australian Attentional Regulation Authority (APRA).

And the incoming chair (incorrectly described as a “chairman”) is quoted as saying:

The board sees opportunity to enhance member value in the future. In line with APRA’s expectations, this will be an active consideration for the board and the leadership team.

We will provide an explanation for this next issue.

Finally, on the crisis in construction...

Last month we provided a report on our evidence to the Legislative Council Public Accountability Committee into the regulation of building standards etc. You know, the David Shoebridge Committee.

We had an outstanding obligation to provide a written response to two questions provided on notice that day and you can see our response here.

Uh oh, time to change feet

On Monday night, 30 October, the Public Accounts Committee grilled the Building Commissioner, David Chandler, about his role and expectations.

As he disclosed that he had identified another 200 apartment building with “significant issues” which remained “incomplete” despite being certified for occupancy and another two yet to be announced , he said it was the purchaser’s responsibility.

He said people “should go and spend a little more time having a look (at their apartment) before they settle” and “if people were prepared to do a little bit of research to work out who might be risky and who is less risky” there would be fewer problems. One of the members of the Committee Courtney Houssos MLC described his observations as “remarkable” and pursued Mr Chandler to confirm if his “advice is that homeowners become experts themselves” and whether there was a role for government to regulate.

(Ms Houssos is also an ALP member of the Shoebridge Committee and, from our experience, well-informed on the extraordinarily well-funded and well-staffed Building Commissions in Queensland (in particular) and Victoria.)

Mr Chandler responded to Ms Houssos there was “a role for everyone to do what would be appropriate”.

That includes you, Building Commissioner.

So, buyer beware, if you buy an apartment, it’s all down to you and your judgement.

That’s not a monumental step, this is a monumental step

When NSW Better Regulation Minister Kevin Anderson announced the Design and Building Practitioners Bill last week he said it was a “monumental step in the reform of the building and construction industry”.

Oh, please, no it isn’t. Many critics responded that it was more likely the first step of 100 necessary to restore confidence but a monumental step would have been rolling back the option for a developer to pay their own certifier and restoring building and development control solely to local government.

The Minister’s announcement entirely ignores the steps that could be taken to ensure that buildings are built properly - right from the moment construction begins - that there can be proper inspection and control all the way through the construction, that there can be on-site quality control people like the old-fashioned clerk-of-works, and that a properly resourced and massively funded Building Commission could make sure it all worked.

Ignoring the construction and focusing on the potential that at some stage in the future, consumers who have bought something that turns out to be flawed or requiring remedial action or falls down, will have a range of people against whom they can initiate legal action doesn’t really help.

Interestingly, while legal action can be taken against a range of “building practitioners”, they don’t include the developer, who escapes (again) unscathed.

When the Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced on 10 July that private certification “hasn’t worked” and conceded “there’s a gap in legislation. We allowed the industry to self-regulate and it hasn’t worked. There are too many challenges, too many problems and that’s why the government is willing to legislate”, she could have done something about the adequacy of construction so that at the time someone buys a property, or an apartment, there can be absolute certainty about the quality of its construction and whoever built it, fixes it. But she didn’t. The developers win again.

More a monumental fail, than a monumental step.

Narrabri GM wants more bloodshed

What kind of GM would want to prevent the Supreme Court exercising jurisdiction to review the standard senior staff contract to test whether it is “unfair, harsh or unconscionable or against the public interest”?

What kind of GM hasn’t been horrified at the “no reason” 38 week payouts used to remove a succession of competent and successful colleagues, whether they be sacked as general managers or other senior staff?

What kind of GM wouldn’t know that the ICAC in their report after investigating Mid-Western in 2016 recommended that something be done about “no reason” termination for senior staff?

And what kind of GM wouldn’t know that these issues are still the focus of the ICAC in their investigation of the former Canterbury, and the smart money is that they will do something in their final recommendations about how the “no reason” termination can allow councils to bully the GM, a GM to bully directors and generally create a lack of confidence in local government management?

Stewart Todd, is that kind of GM.

On 15 November the Supreme Court will consider his objection to our section 106 application that the standard contract is unfair and that the Court should step in and vary it. Mr Todd’s response as the GM who sacked our member at Narrabri, is to try to avoid the matter being dealt with on its merits by arguing the Court doesn’t have the jurisdiction. And if he is right, then no one has the jurisdiction to deal with a contract and employment arrangements that were abandoned by the New South Wales Government for their senior executives in 2013. More bloodshed ahead.

When the Local Government Act 1993 was made, it introduced an arrangement to employ senior staff based on the model operating in the New South Wales public sector - term employment creating vulnerability for employees when it comes time for the contract to be renewed and good employees can find themselves with the Council, for no good reason, simply not renewing. A termination of employment by any other name.

But in 2013 the NSW Government of Mike Baird announced fairer and more secure employment for the State’s Senior Executive Service by transitioning most of them to ongoing employment. And while there remained the possibility for a public authority to terminate one of these executives with 38 weeks’ pay, this required a written report to the Public Service Commissioner, detailing the steps that had been taken and the reasons for the termination. And by amendment later, a requirement that the Public Service Commissioner consent as the technical employer.

But the Government, having renounced these historic and unfair practices didn’t do anything at all to change the model operating in local government - to the detriment of many senior staff.

We can blame the Government generally, and a number of ministers for Local Government in particular for retaining this anachronistic approach. We would have preferred to see them take the “necessary decisions” (OLG joke) to retain parity with practices in the Government Sector.

Local government employment for senior staff should be fair, transparent and sackings examinable. What kind of GM, coming up through the ranks, would not want that?

Stewart Todd, is that kind of GM.

Senior Staff are being invited to respond to some questions about their job security

We don’t think senior staff should have to spend their working life sitting on the brink.

Is the GM happy today, or getting a bit too pompous and self-important and wanting you to bow, or scrape? Or approve that DA that doesn’t comply with the planning instruments? Or go soft on the breach of environmental/PoPE, or other legislative requirements for an influential local? Or any other of a multitude of risks.

The three unions are asking senior staff, other than general managers, to respond to our concerns about their vulnerability and what sort of steps they would like to see followed by the Government.

There will be a circular from the three unions headed Senior Staff and the Local Government Act and there is a special link, if you are a depa member, to allow you to respond.

Please do so. We are looking for an authoritative survey of senior staff about their vulnerability as part of our campaign to provide better employment protection and fair treatment for everyone.

More Articles ...

  1. We start negotiating a new Local Government State Award this month
  2. More good directors sacked - a real bloodbath at Snowy Valleys
  3. Evidence to the Legislative Council Public Accountability Committee into the regulation of building standards, building quality and building disputes.
  4. A hapless of Building Ministers announcing bugger all in Sydney
  5. Look out if your Council wants to review your nine day fortnight
  6. A new Minister for Local Government - let’s see what we can do about those unfair standard contracts
  7. Prime Minister announces IR reform - oh no, here we go again
  8. NSW election means we’ll be bashing our heads against the wall with the Coalition Government
  9. Super dispute in the Commission as well
  10. And we’re in dispute with another Council too
  11. Shellharbour shows why you need to be a member of a union
  12. We file our first dispute of the year with Snowy Valleys Council
  13. NSW Government doesn’t understand why they lost the High Court case
  14. We still hate term contracts for senior staff
  15. Opal Tower fiasco raises opportunity to review everything
  16. Kaldas review released in December
  17. "Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer; You'll wish that summer could always be here"
  18. And that’s it for 2018, but here’s some good advice
  19. What about the High Court challenge?
  20. Richmond Valley is the winner
  21. How's HR been this year?
  22. How has HR gone this year?
  23. Speaking of issues of principle, the Government appreciates us, but doesn’t want to meet with us
  24. High Court to hear union challenge to electoral funding laws next week
  25. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays depa from the swift completion of depaNews …
  26. Slowly getting somewhere on “superable salary” dispute
  27. NSW unions challenge NSW Government in the High Court
  28. Oh no, now the NSW Government has asked whether we think "there is a greater risk for conflicts of interest to arise in private certification work and result in poor certification …"
  29. But what do the regulators do?
  30. Don’t think banks should be involved in Super?
  31. No wonder this lot didn’t want a Banking Royal Commission
  32. Councillors on interview panels
  33. “I need to see you at the gym”
  34. Nick Kaldas to audit corruption risks in New South Wales planning
  35. The BPB is not just using “intelligence”, it has “intelligence cells”
  36. Next time you have a disagreement about professional opinion …
  37. Farewell Ernie, thanks for everything
  38. You’ve moved house or Council? Don’t let it be a secret
  39. We make a submission to ICAC Operation Dasha
  40. Look out the BPB is coming after you
  41. Government sends IRC to Parramatta
  42. We may find ourselves in an unusual position
  43. Former Canterbury demonstrates to ICAC why councillors should be removed from development assessment
  44. Electoral Commission declares 2018 depa elections
  45. 2018 depa elections – lucky Lord Buckethead isn’t a member
  46. How to not lose your leaseback car
  47. Government decides to move the IRC out of the Sydney CBD
  48. Some people think they can get away with anything...
  49. Going down like dominoes at Tweed
  50. Okay, we don’t mind a challenge, but …
  51. Welcome back
  52. Well, that’s it for us
  53. Tweed Shire is the most hazardous workplace for depa members in NSW
  54. depaNews HR awards will be out Wednesday or Thursday...
  55. depa elections next year
  56. Code of Conduct
  57. LGNSW CEO Donna Rygate proudly launches their game changer
  58. Is that the time?
  59. And look out for this...
  60. Had a look at the Draft Code of Conduct yet?
  61. We still don’t know what this thing is
  62. LGS agrees it’s their responsibility, and they will fix it
  63. BPB nails idiots at Griffith City Council
  64. Andrew Spooner resigns as President
  65. What is this thing called, love*?
  66. And members respond brilliantly
  67. Like getting blood from a stone...
  68. depa's responsibility to look after our members’ social interests without discrimination
  69. Are you okay?
  70. Look out, the ******** and ********* might be back...
  71. “Like a dog returning to its vomit…”
  72. Get your own ideas!
  73. I’ve got a Deed of Release - lessons to be learned from Amber Harrison
  74. Enough is enough – it’s time to cut councillors out of development assessment
  75. Do yourself a favour
  76. Uh oh, …
  77. We accept LGNSW offer for a new State Award
  78. Courts nail clumsy and secretive handling of Council mergers
  79. We don’t like being gagged and we pull the pin on the EMRG
  80. Nine days to go …
  81. The Hills Shire embraces commitment to health and wellbeing in 2017 Enterprise Agreement
  82. A Tale of Two Cities
  83. LGS restores uranium nuclear screening
  84. Cripes, where was the compassion?
  85. Ex-Mayor of Hurstville exits with his tail between his legs
  86. OLG forced to state the bleeding obvious on employment protection
  87. LGNSW backflips on decades of cooperation
  88. It’s hard not to feel sorry for Gladys
  89. Next month ...
  90. What would Mike Baird have done?
  91. Uh oh ...
  92. The sharks are circling
  93. And that’s pretty much the end of the year for us...
  94. Who has the worst HR in local government in 2016?
  95. Who has the worst HR in local government this year?
  96. Are things going any better at Sydney City with their asbestos contamination?
  97. We give OLG’s Employment Reference Group another chance
  98. The Ascension marks the death of the historic IRC
  99. depa’s prestigious HR Awards will be announced next month
  100. BPB gets their fingers out on what should happen with PINs
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