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 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.

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:

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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