Get a job at Liverpool and get Farooqed

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.

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