Minister for LG releases the much-awaited “Discussion paper - Senior staff employment”

Wendy Tuckerman

The NSW Government is a funny thing. Back in the early 90s the Government decided when the new Local Government Act was to be made in 1993, that the model which operated in the NSW Public Sector for the Senior Executive Service should be forced onto councils.

It wasn’t ever a good model, employees in the SES in the Public Sector are, apart from at the very top, remote from the ministers and would be horrified at how closely their colleagues in local government operate with elected councillors.

Flawed or otherwise, in 2013, Premier at the time Mike Baird announced the “modernising” of the Senior Executive Service by doing two important things - transitioning members of the SES from term employment to “continuing” employment (that means permanent) and, while retaining the right to sack employees with 38 weeks’ pay, introduced a requirement for any authority wanting to sack someone (who couldn’t be sacked for bad performance or behaviour with 38 weeks’ pay) that they needed to first prepare a written submission to be considered by the newly appointed Public Service Commissioner. A clear check and balance that still doesn’t exist in local government.

But for reasons never explained in the intervening nine years, they didn’t flow those changes to senior staff in local government. It’s impossible to speculate without getting paranoid about the State treating local government with contempt but why the Government/Minister for Local Government/Office of Local Government thought it reasonable to continue arrangements clearly unacceptable abandoned in the Public Sector for being unacceptable by the government remains a secret.

There were senior positions in the Office of Local Government, including the Director-General at the time Tim Hurst, who benefited with fairer employment arrangements but felt no need to do something about it in local government.

And as we’ve said many times, when this was raised, the response from the OLG CEO was to get a consensus in the industry and the Office/Minister would do it. We know that was taunting, because the historic consensus was established on 26 October when the LGNSW Board decided because of recommendations from the ICAC, that senior staff employment arrangements needed to change. Yep, a year ago.

You’d think, wouldn’t you, that if the employers’ organisation and the employee organisations all have a common view about how employment should continue for the senior executives, then that should be sufficient. Unfortunately not, the Minister for Local Government and/or OLG, instead  wanted to consult to “seek the views of the broader local government sector on the changes requested by parties to the Award”.

We should be thankful for small mercies, after the way this has been handled, but no one has explained why it has taken two months for this to happen after the LGNSW and the unions endorsed a draft of the Discussion Paper on 27 July, nor why the Discussion Paper is out there for two months. And then it will need to be analysed in Sagittarius A. The cynics speculate (and some of the realists as well) that this has been deliberately done to create an excuse for the Government that it’s too close to the end of the year, to get on the legislative timetable, and then next year, everyone will be in election mode...

Here is the discussion paper, already sent to members for their input on 20 September.

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