“It will take two years to fix …”

NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler (above) admitted to the Sydney Morning Herald in an article published on 8 February that “a major fix to the state’s residential construction crisis is two years away, as fresh cracks emerged in Sydney’s troubled Mascot Towers apartment block”.

The Commissioner said, “he had been a ‘bit despondent’ after visiting some ‘pretty awful’ construction sites in recent weeks.

There are some really regrettable things out there that abhor me.”

And us too, Mr Building Commissioner. Nothing but a massive increase in your resources and funding and a commitment by the Government to make dodgy builders and developers responsible for their shoddy work and liable for damages will do. The owners and residents of Mascot Towers, Opal Tower and the other uninhabitable developments have been more than “a bit despondent” for a long time now.

But even the two years target identified by the Building Commissioner depends upon the Berejiklian government getting their building reform package through the NSW Upper House. It’s on pause while the Upper House presses the recommendations of the Shoebridge Committee as an alternative and more dynamic proposal. We prefer Shoebridge’s recommendations, too.

While we were all suffocating in the smoke or worse through January, the Minister for Better Regulation (sic), Kevin Anderson, announced on 21 January that he would “introduce a risk rating system for builders, certifiers and developers that would score them on the quality of their previous projects to weed out the dodgy operators”.

When it comes to certifiers, that has been the role of the Building Professionals Board, or whatever it’s called, or wherever it sits in government these days. Clearly the Minister has a lack of confidence in that organisation to have done what is now being required to be done with some kind of a rating system.

If you want to see a pretty good rating system, check out the penalties page on the BPB site. We’d be happy to help - the dodgy bastards with multiple penalties on the BPB site should never, ever work again in the industry, and should never, ever be able to run businesses employing others doing certification, or anything else to do with construction.

And while we’re at it, ratings, really? Let’s not forget that the Global Financial Crisis was all about dodgy investment strategies that had all been rated AAA by both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, respected and authoritative ratings businesses that really didn’t know what they were rating...

And speaking of people not paying attention...

How are the award negotiations going?

There have been three major issues occupying negotiations.

The first is having the IRC require Councils to report on how they are complying with their Award obligations to have a training plan in place to manage the training and assist progression of their staff. Probably poorly, but we will see. The IRC has directed that information be provided and it is flowing in. It’s required by the Award, so it’s a legally enforceable entitlement. It’s the L-A-W!

The second, is having the IRC require Councils to furnish information about the extent to which their workforce is casualised (not just by the number and extent of allegedly casual employees - more often than not really temporary appointments, or part-time permanent appointments without the benefits of permanency - but labour hire and inappropriate term contracts as well) to ensure that local government remains a place for permanent employment. Again, it’s the L-A-W.

And the third has been to focus on the commitment of the three unions, and LGNSW from their Conference late last year, to recognise the need for proper protection and leave for the victims of domestic violence and introduce Family and Domestic Violence Leave through a new clause 21M. And the good news is that on 24 February, accompanied by the furious agreement and consent of the parties, the IRC will vary the 2017 Award with immediate effect to provide a protective clause.

Just as well we can play a long game

2020 and its connotations of perfect vision remind us how we see things. For us, there are the new things, like our negotiations for a new 2020 Award, and a new dispute with Sydney City just to start the year, but there are the old and the continuing things as well - what’s happening with planning, the accreditation process of local government employees, and on and on.

The cartoon and the headline above were published in the last issue of the Health Surveyors’ News (one of our historic names) in May 1987. We were already fighting off the introduction of term contracts in the industry - allegedly to better manage performance as if continuing and permanent employees can’t be performance-managed, but really to make it easier for a Council to sack employees without the checks and balances provided by the Industrial Relations Act. The Council simply decides not to renew the contract...

It’s been a long history, not to be repeated here in this issue, but as we enter 2020 we remain committed to removing terms of employment for senior staff other than general managers, and even for GM’s to provide checks and balances, to ensure that a newly elected council can’t decide, as part of flexing their political or lack-of-intellectual muscle, to terminate their contract regardless of the GM’s performance. A waste of public money and poor treatment of a good employee.

We are immobilised in our section 106 with Narrabri Council/GM Stewart Todd as the Supreme Court considers Todd’s challenge that the Court doesn’t have jurisdiction to deal with contractual issues for senior staff under the Local Government Act. We can’t wait, there are only two alternatives here, Todd loses and senior staff win, or Todd wins and senior staff lose. Either way, the issue will be resolved.

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 ...

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.

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.

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.

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.

Next month

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

More Articles ...

  1. Local Government Super appoints a new Chief Executive Officer
  2. Local Government Super appoints a new Chief Executive Officer (2)
  3. Narrabri GM wants more bloodshed
  4. That’s not a monumental step, this is a monumental step
  5. Oh no, more “independent” LGS directors
  6. Finally, on the crisis in construction...
  7. Uh oh, time to change feet
  8. Evidence to the Legislative Council Public Accountability Committee into the regulation of building standards, building quality and building disputes.
  9. More good directors sacked - a real bloodbath at Snowy Valleys
  10. We start negotiating a new Local Government State Award this month
  11. Senior Staff are being invited to respond to some questions about their job security
  12. A hapless of Building Ministers announcing bugger all in Sydney
  13. Prime Minister announces IR reform - oh no, here we go again
  14. A new Minister for Local Government - let’s see what we can do about those unfair standard contracts
  15. Look out if your Council wants to review your nine day fortnight
  16. Shellharbour shows why you need to be a member of a union
  17. And we’re in dispute with another Council too
  18. Super dispute in the Commission as well
  19. NSW election means we’ll be bashing our heads against the wall with the Coalition Government
  20. We still hate term contracts for senior staff
  21. NSW Government doesn’t understand why they lost the High Court case
  22. We file our first dispute of the year with Snowy Valleys Council
  23. "Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer; You'll wish that summer could always be here"
  24. Kaldas review released in December
  25. Opal Tower fiasco raises opportunity to review everything
  26. How's HR been this year?
  27. Richmond Valley is the winner
  28. What about the High Court challenge?
  29. And that’s it for 2018, but here’s some good advice
  30. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays depa from the swift completion of depaNews …
  31. Speaking of issues of principle, the Government appreciates us, but doesn’t want to meet with us
  32. High Court to hear union challenge to electoral funding laws next week
  33. How has HR gone this year?
  34. 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 …"
  35. NSW unions challenge NSW Government in the High Court
  36. Slowly getting somewhere on “superable salary” dispute
  37. No wonder this lot didn’t want a Banking Royal Commission
  38. Don’t think banks should be involved in Super?
  39. But what do the regulators do?
  40. Nick Kaldas to audit corruption risks in New South Wales planning
  41. “I need to see you at the gym”
  42. Councillors on interview panels
  43. The BPB is not just using “intelligence”, it has “intelligence cells”
  44. Next time you have a disagreement about professional opinion …
  45. Look out the BPB is coming after you
  46. We make a submission to ICAC Operation Dasha
  47. You’ve moved house or Council? Don’t let it be a secret
  48. Farewell Ernie, thanks for everything
  49. Former Canterbury demonstrates to ICAC why councillors should be removed from development assessment
  50. We may find ourselves in an unusual position
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