An unprecedented move

Published: 3rd May 2019

The Palaszczuk Government’s dismissal of the Logan City Council has pitched the sector into uncharted waters. 

The way the Government and the Crime and Corruption Commission has behaved in this matter is unprecedented. It is more about politics than good governance, with the upshot being that seven councillors have been denied natural justice and the people of Logan City have no local political representation.

Here is some background to explain the LGAQ’s stance. Next year will mark 100 years since the LGAQ became the industrial voice of local government in Queensland, a fact of which we are mightily proud. The elected Policy Executive of that time established an industrial fighting fund overseen by an industrial relations committee of elected members who in turn utilised the services of external providers to help represent councils in industrial disputes. The 1936 Local Government Act formally recognised the LGAQ’s employer industrial role. In1968, some 51 years ago, the LGAQ employed its first full time industrial relations officer. The rest is history, as they say.

In 2019, there are 40,500 staff employed in 294 occupations across hundreds of individual worksites in Queensland’s 77 councils.

Today, in discharging its constitutional responsibilities, the LGAQ employs a full time Workforce Strategy Executive, the inimitable Tony Goode, and a Workforce Capacity Lead, Gabrielle Dorward. They focus on the big picture IR and workforce issues while five IR staff seconded to Peak Services focus on the day to day help and advice to councils, enterprise agreements, individual workforce restructures, workplace investigations, individual disputes and human resources issues. Under that arrangement the LGAQ (not Peak Services) remains as the sole registered industrial organisation representing councils in the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission. We run the annual wage cases, award reviews and the like.

Part of the arrangement with Peak is that the LGAQ pays the full-time salaries of three of those five staff who provide a free service meeting the IR and HR needs of councils. Those folk take up to 10,000 calls and emails a year from our members. If it’s a job that takes three hours or less it is an entirely free service, and most matters fall into that bracket. If it’s a bigger job then councils engage Peak on very favourable commercial terms. Just on a year ago, Peak Services incorporated a legal practice to deal purely and simply with IR issues that require a practicing lawyer to act for councils. Mr. Troy Wild heads up that practice.

IR is a tough game and not for the faint hearted. Rightly or wrongly, the system is largely adversarial. Over the years the LGAQ has appealed IR matters all the way to Supreme, Federal and High Courts We do not fold under pressure. Our members come first, and, for them, we play hard but within the limits of the law.

For that reason, we were both bemused and annoyed at the lecture we received from the Courier Mail last Saturday about how we should be more popular and support the CCC’s intervention in a long-running industrial dispute between the Logan City Council and its former CEO. If you wanted to be popular the last thing you would do in this country is lead an employer group. For the record, the LGAQ received advice from its own internal IR legal team, an external legal firm and senior counsel and even spoke to the CCC Chair himself before we told the Acting Mayor we would back her and the majority of Logan City Councillors “to the gates of Hell” in making a decision to not confirm their then CEO’s probation.

There is no place for the Queensland Criminal Code to be used in Industrial Relations matters. The LGAQ will not comment further as these matters are currently before the court, but we will have plenty to say at the appropriate time.