Maranoa Regional Council
Maranoa Regional Council

‘DISRESPECTFUL’: Mayor’s push for restructure slammed

In what was described as a rushed decision meant hundreds of Maranoa Regional council employees would be contacted over the Christmas break to hear about their future, as the proposed controversial $1 million restructure edges closer after a shock resolution at a special council meeting.

A special meeting was called on December 21 by mayor Golder to begin the large consultation process for the Organisational Structure, despite the majority of councillors voting in late November to hold off until January to allow for due process and for council staff to have a Christmas break.

The proposed organisational restructure would result in Maranoa Regional Council and its 350 staff to operate completely differently, similar to the way the region’s multiple shire councils operated before the 2008 amalgamation.

However, strong debate between councillors has erupted over the timeline and consultation with staff, with even council CEO Julie Reitano pleading with Cr Golder and councillors at the November 25 meeting to hold off on the decision until January, warning it would put staff under extreme pressure to have months of work completed within days over the Christmas period.

However, at the Monday, December 21 Special Meeting, mayor Tyson Golder and deputy mayor Geoff McMullen pushed to ensure council staff would find out what their roles will look like in 2021 over the Christmas period, citing the importance of employees receiving clarification about their future in the organisation.

While councillors originally decided to finish the year on December 9, the meeting on December 21 meant some councillors returned from holidays, four days before Christmas to discuss, what Cr Golder believes is a “fantastic opportunity” for the Maranoa, saying in this COVID world, people should be talking about how no one is losing their job in council.

“I think in this extremely exciting time this proposed organisational structure change … it’s very exciting how council can deliver for the people of the Maranoa and the staff that work in Maranoa Regional Council,” he said.

“From all the stories and the anecdotes from staff and the community I think this is an exciting 2021, if this is adopted … so I certainly will be supporting these commonsense changes to the Organisational Structure.”

Cr Golder moved Preliminary Organisational Structure based on Mayor’s Proposal – In preparation for Stage 2 of the Employee Consultation, with Cr Mark Edwards seconding the motion.

The video of the proceedings was uploaded and made public two weeks after the meeting was held.

1. Council formally receive the confidential update draft detailed Organisational Structure document (Date 21/12/20) based on the mayor’s parameters and incorporating outcomes from the preliminary discussions undertaken to date with the relevant employees, and incorporating updates discussed at the meeting.

2. Council approve for release in confidence to employees and their representatives a copy of the draft detailed Organisational Structure document, and that this form the basis of communication with employees and their representatives.

3. Councillors formally receive a copy of the draft letter templates prior to formal release.

4. Communication include that employees’ employment is secure and their pay is secure on the conditions and for the term outlined in the Certified Agreement, or at a minimum for the remainder of employees’ contracts in the case of Contracts of Employment.

5. Discussions continue with employees whose role may change as part of the proposed restructure and their representatives

6. An invitation to be extended to union representatives to meet with councillors at briefing on 25 January 2021.

7. Council release via its communication media a copy of the draft (high level) overview of the proposed structure for viewing by the community, including any minor amendments.

Cr O’Neil requested the mayor to allow each individual dot point of the draft to be considered and voted on separately.

Crs Hancock and Wendy Taylor voted in favour of this, however the mayor indicated he was not in favour of this approach.

“(This is) such a complex resolution … that there’s opportunity for councillors to express their individual views on the different elements on the draft resolution,” Cr O’Neil said.

Cr Hancock, a former council employee, questioned the mayor’s motives of wanting to rush the major decision through before Christmas, and also asked councillors what kind of leaders would be so “cruel” in allowing their staff to take time away from families over Christmas to receive a phone call from the CEO and be told about a major restructure.

In a similar sentiment, she said councillors should take the appropriate time to receive and listen to feedback from the community and staff then come together and discuss at the end of January.

“Once again Mr Mayor, I won’t be supporting this motion because I think we’re rushing it through … now we’re rushing it through four days out from Christmas and I actually don’t think it’s good governance to do this over the Christmas break,” Cr Hancock said.

“I actually think council should be extending their finalisation deadline from January 27-28 so this decision can be pushed back.

“I think it should be pushed back so we can be fully informed … to fully take on staff feedback … community feedback … to be able to make this decision, a responsible decision and fully informed decision and to be able to give it due process, I feel we’re rushing it through.

“I do once again acknowledge the staff who are trying to give it their best to give it due process, in the time frame, we as a council have given them.

“I don’t think it’s good governance, I don’t think there’s due process and I will not be supporting this process.”

Similarly, a disappointed Cr O’Neil shared how sad it was that in the first time he can recall that council had rejected the motion to vote for the points separately.

“I would have supported elements if given the opportunity as I moved the procedural motion to allow councillors to express their individual views on what is an incredibly complex resolution,” he said.

“And I’ll share with councillors, that is the first time in my memory in Maranoa Regional Council where a request to do something in stages was not supported by council and I think that’s a sad indictment of this particular chamber in this particular time. “

Similarly, Cr O’Neil questioned his colleagues why only weeks ago they decided to give more breathing space for consultation and to allow staff to go away and have a much-needed rest over Christmas.

“ … I think ramming before Christmas is the disrespectful illustration of lack of support for the staff and workforce of Maranoa Regional Council,” he said.

“ … there are staff away on Christmas leave now, who will get phone calls about potentially a universal change to their roles in Maranoa Regional Council.

“I don’t think that’s good practice … I don’t think it’s good governance and I don’t think it illustrates the support we should give the workforce.

“I accept there is a clear majority of people who want to see a universal change … what would be a significant change to this council since 2008.

“But I don’t accept it’s good practice to ram it through for our staff, for people who are away on leave, or plan to go away on leave who now have a bucket load of work to do over the Christmas season.

Cr O’Neil did however, find a positive in the motion, stating he supported the draft proposal of the Organisational Structure going out to public consultation.

“While I accept there are people in the community who like what’s being proposal, there are equally people who do not,” he said.

“So, the community who put as us here, can have their say on what council is intending to do in 2021.”

In support of the motion, Cr McMullen said it was important staff receive clarification over the holidays rather than spend their time worrying about their position.

Rebutting some councillors claims that the decision had been “rushed”, the mayor said it’s been four months since the start of consultation and it’s time a decision is made.

“I certainly understand the opposition that has been put forward today about this, one thing I’d like to put forward … that council will have been four months of consultation since the start of this process so I don’t believe it’s been rushed at any form,” Cr Golder said.

“I believe letting people know now will give people certainty and certainty is very important for everyone.”

In a year where the pandemic has threatened employment opportunities for hundreds of thousands of Australians, Cr Golder said he wanted to highlight that no one would lose their jobs.

“Every employment is secure … no one will lose their job,” he said.

“If everybody in Australia had that assurity, everyone would be feeling much better.

“I believe this council is a caring council that will and do care for people’s future, but as well as has to make changes that make it more effective to operate local government.

“So many people are on JobKeeper and so forth in Australia, this is good news that is coming from Maranoa Regional Council.”

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