Taree unbackable favourites to win 2011 worst HR in Local Government Award

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?

No-one we know at Taree, nor any of the officials of the other unions involved, have any idea what the Mayor meant by that.  We see the steps by senior management as being universally intending to sink morale even further.

The Manning River Times has reported our disagreement with the Mayor.

We think their explanation in the article about the two parts of the dispute really avoids the truth.  We won’t say “lie” because we have already had a threat of defamation action made against us by the pugilistic Marsdens because we used the word “ambushed” over how management interviewed staff in our dispute last year and then the IRC statement used the same word!  Oh oh.

Two step increases are available under the rules of the salary system and the Council actually tried to change the rules banning more than one step and then apply that rule retrospectively to nail our member.  I hope the judging panel for the Worst HR in Local Government Award remembers that one.

But it’s in relation to the comments made by the anonymous source at the Council that the real truth is avoided.

They said that the three displaced staff members “agreed to the change and retain their previous salary”.  No, anonymous spokesperson, not quite. 

They agreed to drop a level in the management restructure after receiving assurances from Executive Leader Ron Posselt that the jobs would be fundamentally the same as their old jobs and that would be demonstrated when PDs were prepared in the few months after the changes.  Trust me, said Ron.

That was back in April/May last year and despite monthly requests for the PD to be prepared, they never were.  Wonder why?

It’s all about whether the lesser job is of “comparable skill and accountability levels” like Posselt claimed or whether it’s not.  And the Council has refused to respond to our exhibit in the dispute identifying 19 lost functions and responsibilities – as well as dropping one level in the organization.

And that doesn’t sound comparable to anyone outside the Council’s managers and their $3000 a day lawyer.

As an aside, we put no credence in the rumour that the forthcoming Local Government Association annual conference will be considering a recommendation that Greater Taree be stripped of the adjective “Greater”.  While “Lesser” would more appropriately describe their commitment to the obligation in section 8 of the Local Government Act to “be a responsible employer”, we know that Greater simply describes the size of the Council post amalgamation. Like in the Great War being a biggie and not really being that much fun.

We do like the idea though of Greater Lakes City Council.


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