Barbarians rise to keep unfair sackings


When the LGNSW Board on 15 October resolved to create an historic consensus with the unions to support removing “no reason” sackings of directors, they did so cautiously and prudently. They acted on a recommendation from their Industrial Advisory Committee, they benefited from representatives of the ICAC coming and discussing the initiative and whether it was consistent with recommendation from Operation Dasha, and conducted information sessions online with councils across the state.

But when you take steps to prevent General Managers from unfairly sacking directors who report to them, you can expect a backlash. The barbarians are well and truly trying to sack Rome and while it may seem a bit of an exaggeration to see the steps taken by the unions and LGNSW to remove the corruption risk of “no reason” sackings and to provide fair appointment practices as equivalent to the civilisation of Ancient Rome, it’s certainly a far more civilised arrangement than current practices.

It’s not an exaggeration to see frothing general managers desperate to retain the power to sack unfairly, directors probably doing what they’re told because their employment is tenuous with a “no risk” provision in their contract, and a conservative politician from a highly conservative Council, as the barbarians.

But these furtive characters don’t want to engage with the unions publicly, or even LGNSW publicly about the reasons for their objections. They are flimsy and hollow and show a remarkable ignorance about what can be done, and not done, for employees under the State Award.

No one should be surprised that Mosman Council, a council which in the 1980s got really excited about the Thatcherite economic rationalist agenda, and contracted out all their outdoor services reducing their staff by more than a half, was right there at the front of the barbarians. Clearly the fingerprints of a ghost of councils past at work here.

Removing the unfairness of the standard contract from the layer below the GM makes sense because it’s reasonable to have everyone fairly employed in a Council, with transparent and clear treatment and with access to the Industrial Relations Commission, just like the rest of the workforce, for unfair and unreasonable treatment.

GMs, as excited as they may be about losing their right to sack people unfairly, apparently can’t see the benefit in the ICAC’s recommendations that there is a corruption risk in “no reason” termination. It’s a practice we’ve seen twice with our members and which is apparently more prevalent than anyone publicly admits - councillors threatening a GM that if they don’t sack the Director of Planning, the Council will sack the GM. Too many guns to the head in that situation, all GM’s should be thanking us.

 Gunpoint 2

It’s a credit to LGNSW that their councillor members see the corruption and reputational problem in this unacceptable practice and are courageously, at the time under the leadership of President Linda Scott, prepared to end it.

This morning at the LGNSW Annual Conference, the conference debated a motion from Mosman that “Local Government NSW takes no further action on the proposal to remove senior staff (excluding General Managers) from the Local Government Act 1993 in order to bring senior staff (excluding General Managers) under the Local Government State Award...”

We found out by misadventure on Friday afternoon last week. Here is the agenda extract in its entirety and our email to the Mayor of Mosman, Councillor Carolyn Corrigan on Saturday asking her to rethink the initiative and discrediting the six arguments the Council had put on the agenda. It was a pleasant and charming approach with a concise focused critique of their flimsy argument, but she didn’t reply. That may well be because no one’s game to say we are opposing this because we want to sack people unfairly, or some dinosaurs made us do it, but you’d think they could come up with something a bit more substantial than these six points.

For what could have been a significant brawl, and not just between the rival political parties involved, when Councillor Corrigan rose to speak in favour of the motion, there was one speech in opposition, apparently a powerful and compelling contribution by Canterbury-Bankstown Mayor Kahl Asfour, smashing the credibility of the flimsy argument. The motion was put with no further speakers and lost.

And not lost by a small margin, lost on the voices, overwhelmingly, with no call for a division or a count.

This is perfect. The barbarians and the reactionaries have had their chance, they have blown it, and even those councils where we know there are GM’s and others unhappy with losing their power to sack unfairly, didn’t want to get into that battle.

There is a new Minister for Local Government and we can use the momentum of this morning’s resolution to encourage the Minister to deliver on what OLG have been telling us for a long, long time, “bring us a consensus, and we will deliver on it”. We know it’s an important decision for both the Minister and the Government, facing an election shortly with potentially a jampacked legislative agenda, but this initiative should proceed as soon as practical.

Our thanks go to Councillor Asfour, and for the many people involved in educating and impressing upon people the significance of this motion from the barbarians.

Wonder no longer why some people call Mosman the sunny place for shady people.

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