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Union pleas falls on deaf ears

Moira Shire Councillors have backed Peter Bertolus despite union pleas, on behalf of shire employees, to have the Acting CEO prevented from making staff structural changes.

FIONA BLICK March 25, 2014 4:06pm

In dramatic developments last week the Australian Services Union (ASU) wrote to Mayor Peter Mansfield and all councillors pleading with them to prevent Acting CEO Mr Bertolus from any further restructuring of the organisation, particularly as the appointment of a new CEO was imminent.

The Yarrawonga Chronicle has received a copy of Cr Mansfield’s two sentence reply to the union’s request.

In the reply, Cr Mansfield states “on behalf of the councillors of Moira Shire, we give full support to Mr Peter Bertolus in carrying out the duties of the Chief Executive Officer until a Chief Executive Officer is appointed”.

ASU representative Bill King spoke with the Yarrawonga Chronicle saying he was “extremely disappointed” former Minister for Local Government Jeanette Powell would not allow or broaden Nick Foa’s terms of reference to talk to staff and this prompted the union penning the letter to all Moira Shire councillors.

 “Because of the constant restructuring staff are suffering low morale, high stress levels and job insecurity,” Mr King said.

“As a union representing the staff at Moira Shire we have tried to compromise and put solutions forward but Mr Bertolus has flatly refused to discuss or accept compromise.

“We have already lodged one complaint with the Fair Work Commission regarding Mr Bertolus’ restructuring and a further complaint will be lodged in coming days.

“Councils and council staff are there for the good of the community.

“We are looking for support from the community on this matter.”

According to Mr King, Ms Powell was fully aware of the staffing issues at Moira Shire which were highlighted in a letter to the former minister by the ASU at the start of March.

“It was made very clear in this letter that staff are concerned about bullying and harassment by not only councillors but by senior executive officers and the acting CEO,” he said.

Mr King said Ms Powell declined to take up the staffing concerns citing the Local Government Act.

“She replied to us in writing saying the Act did not provide either the Minister for Local Government or the Department with authority over council employees,” Mr King said.

“The state government is not looking at the whole picture of how staff are treated and how they are feeling.

“She also said Moira Shire Council would soon have a new CEO and it would be that person’s role to resolve the serious concerns we have raised.”

Mr Foa issued a media release after his meeting with the Mayor Peter Mansfield, councillors, Mr Bertolus and senior officers last week saying he reminded them “about their obligations and responsibility to deliver good government for the benefit of their municipality”.

“It was agreed that each councillor would take measures to address issues of conduct and governance that would restore order and instil confidence in the daily workings of council,” Mr Foa said.

“The way forward for Moira Shire is to focus on core business and for the councillors to work through the office of the CEO so that due process is followed correctly and collective decision-making can prevail.

“It is critical that each councillor remembers their obligations under the Oath of Office they took when first sworn in as an elected representative of their community and the Local Government Act.

“I also impressed upon Moira Shire councillors that it is essential they respect and trust each other, engage in collective decision-making and speak with one voice regardless of their individual opinions and views on matters before the.”

Mr Foa said he will be briefing the Minister for Local Government on the details of the meeting with Moira Shire Council.

Acting CEO Mr Bertolus issued a statement in response to questions put to him by the Yarrawonga Chronicle.

Mr Bertolus denied there was any business-wide staff restructure underway at Moira Shire Council.

“From time to time we adjust individual roles to better align with the needs of the council or to address gaps that emerge as a result of staff taking leave or moving onto different roles internally or outside council,” Mr Bertolus said.

“This occurs on a case by case basis and in accordance with legislative requirements and council’s policies.

“If a staff member has concerns they can raise these through our internal processes, with the Fair Work Commission or a range of other independent workplace agencies.”

He said these workplace agencies can then take steps if Moira Shire’s actions or processes were found to be inadequate.

“If there are matters before the Fair Work Commission we respect the privacy of all parties and will not speak to the matter,” Mr Bertolus said.

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