Some people think they can get away with anything...


We’ve just stopped a Council, which has been breaching the Award and stealing money from employees by making them work more than 35 hours a week in their tracks.  Mergers have the advantage, as we’ve seen at Georges River, of identifying things that don’t look right and where questions need to be asked.
When Murray River was formed by the merger of Murray Shire and Wakool, a member from Wakool was offered a job requiring a 36 hour week.  And he asked the obvious question - both reasonably and politely.  Not the obvious way with a, WTF!

But the Council was reluctant to answer the question, behaving as if ignoring it would make it go away.  We now know that historically, that has worked for them.  Then we became involved, they were reluctant to answer our questions as well and significantly frustrated by this stonewalling, we filed a dispute in December to have the IRC help find the answers.

We didn’t know whether we were talking to people who didn’t understand, or were a bit slow, or who’d been sprung at last and were trying to hide it, but before Commissioner Newall on 18 December it was agreed that LGNSW would work with the Council to try to understand what was happening.

What was happening was that Murray Shire (for longer than anyone was prepared to acknowledge) had been making 35 hour week employees work 36.  It was claimed this allowed them to accumulate sufficient hours to close the place over Xmas/New Year but the calculation showed that collecting up to 52 additional hours (or even 44, if you assume people take a bit of leave) they were ripping off the staff.

We understand that members from Murray Shire had done the calculations, worked out that they didn’t add up and asked for explanations from management years ago but they were ignored.  We understand how that happened because when we asked the same reasonable questions they ignored us. We had a phone conversation going through the maths of it all and there was almost a begrudging realisation about what was going on (their calculation had clearly been based on a 38 hour week), so clearly the lightbulb is starting to glimmer, although quite weakly.  We thought it was a sign they got it but then they went into hiding.
What we were asking was how many employees had been affected by this and for how long.  Reasonable questions, lawful questions and questions deserving an answer, but we got nothing.

depa is hard to ignore and with extremely valuable assistance from LGNSW we have now resolved the dispute for three depa members and four LGEA members (for reasons we don’t understand, USU members didn’t think there was a problem) with an agreed calculation to establish compensation going back six years.

The Council was keen to keep the settlement in individual Deeds of Release with confidentiality provisions and, for the sake of a settlement like this, we agreed.  This has been done.
But really, what’s going on down there?  The deeds our members signed required the payment to be made within seven days and the Council failed to comply with the requirements of the deed for each of our three members.  Almost as if they were asserting some bizarre corporate value of intransigence and wilful disobedience.
They failed by only a day or two, but a breach is a breach and clearly down at Murray River Shire there are far too many things well-beyond their understanding and capacity.

What else have they been hiding at the old Murray Shire?
This could be a regular part of depaNews because today we discover that the same HR Manager has a proposal to change the alignment of the pay periods now that Murray River has merged. She provides three options that are being considered and one of them allows for employees choosing to make up for a week when they don’t get paid with “one week of cashed out annual or long service leave”.

Jeeze Mary, do you mind.  The Award does not allow the cashing out of annual leave or long service leave under any circumstances.  It does allow long service leave to be taken at double pay but that requires someone not to be at work and on leave.  Clearly it’s time for someone to attend an LGNSW course on how the Award works....

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