Maranoa Regional Council - Ordinary Meeting - 25 November 2020.
Maranoa Regional Council - Ordinary Meeting - 25 November 2020.

‘DON’T DO THIS’: Councillors/CEO plead with mayor over motion

A SHOCK last-minute motion by mayor Tyson Golder to rush through what is considered the biggest change to Maranoa Regional Council in over a decade, meant not just councillors, but the CEO also, pleaded with him to give it more time.

At the very last hour of last week’s council meeting, November 25, mayor Golder moved the motion ‘11.9 Completion of Consultation with staff on the Organisational Structure Decision’- essentially to prioritise all of the organisation’s available resources to finalise and approve the restructure of the entire Maranoa council workforce and the way it operates across the region in seven calendar days.

The rushed motion came after almost 12 hours in the chambers, and when councillors already decided to finish the year on December 9.

Despite Maranoa Regional Council CEO Julie Reitano and several councillors expressing shock over the last-minute motion, Cr Golder stood firm and said it was a “very important decision” that should be finalised on December 16.

“I’d like to move that council set the final completing consultation with staff, IE the EBA, agreement condition,” Cr Golder said.

“And a special meeting for decision on the organisational structure change (that means whether it should occur or not occur) at 10am on December 16.

“(and) Request the CEO to use all available resources and support to carry out the motion.”

The Western Star understands the structural changes would result in Maranoa towns being serviced by council in a similar way to pre-amalgamation with each community to have a executive to oversee matters.

Initially in a September 9 meeting, councillors deliberated three proposals to go out to staff, however Crs John Birkett, Mark Edwards, Julie Guthrie, George Ladbrook and Geoff McMullen and Golder successfully voted to move forward with only one option going to staff consultation, with the two others options to not be released to the public.

Originally, this one option was to come back before council for further consideration at a further meeting, however, Cr Golder urged councillors to consider finalising the roles before the end of the year.

Cr Ladbrook seconded the motion.

Councillors and CEO shocked by last-minute motion

A VISIBLY shocked council CEO pleaded with the mayor to reconsider his motion, citing a last minute decision to move on the biggest change to council in 12 years would put staff under extreme stress to have months of work completed within seven days.

“Probably need to get a couple clarifications Mr Mayor, cause it’s the first-time hearing this,” Ms Reitano said.

“The recommendation was, and I thought that council was happy with, there was two stages to consultation – the preliminary stage, so council get feedback, listen then bring that through to the consultative committee on December 3, then bring the results of that to council.

“And that was to set the big picture framework and then the very clear message, and rightfully so, was employees would go into the second stage and map all the individuals as to where they would go in the new structure.

“Once we had where council sat with that, we’d go into the detail.”

Turning to mayor Golder, the CEO sought further clarification on how his motion, which was originally expected to take months of work, would be completed in a week.

“What you’re saying is, somewhere between December 3 and December 16, we have to have all that detailed consultation, the work done and the feedback back to you?” Ms Reitano questioned

“Bearing in mind, last council meeting is on the 9th, so we are talking about seven calendar days to map the employees out and to consult with them and to give them feedback – is that where we are at?” Ms Reitano asked.

A hopeful Cr Golder said that’s what he was aiming for and understood it was a “tight schedule”.

“That’s an understatement,” Ms Reitano responded.

Citing it’s a critical time for the organisation and that he believed a decision should be made before Christmas, Cr Golder said he would be happy to organise a Special Meeting, but would not “get into a debate” about it and reinforced his belief to act with urgency.

Speaking directly to the mayor, Cr Joh Hancock said the mayor’s expectations on staff was “unreasonable” and pointed out the promises made to staff about taking on their feedback would be broken if they “rushed” the decision before Christmas.

“Mr Mayor, I think this is such an important decision and I feel you are rushing it through before Christmas,” Cr Hancock said.

“It’s an unreasonable expectation on our staff, given that we see around this table and know the workload that is already on our staff, legislative workload, that they have to get out.

“The time frames are unreasonable and I feel it will be rushed and it will be missed and I don’t believe that’s a true consultation.

“You said yourself at staff feedback meetings, they would have the opportunity to take the feedback and give back to them where they all sat and what it would mean to them,” Cr Hancock said.

“And they would have the time to consider it and now you are rushing it through.

“You are not giving the staff the time to consider this.

“Why can’t we consider this in January … not to mention, the last ordinary meeting is on the 9th, and as one councillor shared, she cannot make such an important meeting.

“It’s unreasonable expectation and I don’t understand the motive behind it.

“Quite simply I don’t think it’s doable.”

Cr Cameron O’Neil first pleaded with the mayor to alter the date, however, knowing Cr Golder wouldn’t budge, he turned his pleas to his fellow councillors to vote against rushing the changes.

“Mr Mayor, I understand that you are very passionate about seeing a universal change happen to the organisational structure, I get that, but we have to do this in a measured, methodical and inclusive way,” he said.

“And I think the staff are going to feel incredibly railroaded with the time frame.

“Not to mention the staff in this room … there’s an immense workload right now on our staff and this is going to add to it.

“I don’t see there would be any loss to put this on the table for the first meeting in January – to allow proper due diligence to occur over a number of weeks.

“I can recall a couple of staff, and there were probably more … there were questions … around the implementation of this and there was some talk of 6-9 months.

“I accept, we need to make a decision at some point … but I urge you to reconsider what you have put forward.

“Not only is this going to surprise some of the staff, it’s surprised your council that this has been thrown on the table today, at the very last item meeting at 8.15pm at night.

“I’m trying to get my head around, what the implications are in terms of seeing this rolled out in such a tight time frame.

“I just implore you (Cr Golder) to reconsider what you have put forward and push it out to January – an extra six weeks – then the appropriate level of due diligence, the respect, as what could be the single biggest change that the Maranoa has faced as a council, as an entity, since 2008.

“But by rushing it and springing it on council is not the right process and if you’re not willing to reconsider it and look to a later date in January, then I strongly urge fellow councillors to show respect to the staff and vote this down and put up a resolution immediately after for the first meeting in January.”

Cr Wendy Taylor backed Crs Hancock and O’Neil, saying she feels “railroaded” and doesn’t believe it’s fair to any council worker to rush the decision.

“As Cr O’Neil said staff feels railroaded, I feel railroaded … we got five minutes notice and it’s too important to just throw it out there hope it comes up the way you want it,” Cr Taylor said.

“It’s not fair to anyone of us, we don’t know anything … as staff tell us … this is our job, that’s their job, we need to hear from them.

“I don’t think it’s fair for people in this room, we got five minutes notice for something so important.”

Deputy mayor offers olive branch to concerns

AFTER hearing his colleagues’ concerns about a monumental decision being actioned within a week, Cr McMullen then offered an olive branch, suggesting a change to the mayor’s motion opting to give councillors and council staff until late January to deal with the matter.

Ms Reitano backed Cr McMullen’s suggestion for an amendment, however mayor Golder did not budge on his original motion for council staff to get the organisation restructure done within seven days.

“I won’t accept that motion (Cr McMullen’s amendment), but we will test the amendment,” Cr Golder said.

Ms Reitano said she deeply supported the idea of dealing with it next year.

“If I can provide context, we started at 9am this morning, looking at the time, we’re literally in these chambers, council meetings and the number of special meetings over recent months – there is very little time outside to work through very big issues,” Ms Reitano said.

“And councillors spoke about need for change of management, I’m head of staff for want of a better word and this is the first I’m hearing of this so I can imagine how staff are feeling, they have gone to the effort of presenting, and for something that might be rushed through.

“And the time we have for quality, thinking time and planning is when the council cycle stops – so between December and early January, while councillors are on leave having a lovely rest and refresh, for us, that’s when the work starts, we have a break, but it will be short because we know the amount of work that needs to be done.

“So while you are resting and refreshing, we will be planning what’s happened over the weeks … then working hard to prepare for 2021.

“The proposal that I put to the mayor – and I hope he shared with you – we would have an understanding of where council sat prior to that break, that would allow us to then come back to you with a very clear plan in January – but what this will do, is take away all the preparation time and I think it will be an opportunity lost.

“I would put my support behind the amendment.”

Maranoa councillors split on monumental vote

AFTER nearly 30 minutes of back and forth debate around the implications requesting council staff to action months of work within seven days, Crs Birkett, O’Neil, Hancock and Taylor voted in favour of deputy mayor McMullen’s amendment.

Despite the expressed concerns from the CEO and their fellow councillors on “unrealistic expectations” put on staff by the last minute motion, Crs Guthrie, Ladbrook and Edwards supported Cr Golder, who labelled Cr McMullen’s amendment as “damaging”.

“I don’t support this motion, I believe that this is the suggestion I put up was actually more than three months consultation and I believe that the organisation needs this,” Cr Golder said.

“I believe this is damaging if this motion gets up because we need to make a decision and implementing this does take many months as well.

“I see the need in the Maranoa for a change in the organisational structure.

“So I certainly won’t be supporting this motion which is delaying, which will be over four months then.”

Cr Hancock opposed the mayor’s views adding that the amended date was a “realistic time frame” to give staff.

“I believe in supporting this motion because I believe this is a more realistic time frame to give the staff time to process what is actually required,” Cr Hancock said.

“I believe this is such a big decision of council, that one more month to make sure we do it right will not be detrimental to the staff and it will actually be in their favour.”

Councillors will discuss the Organisational Structure at a meeting on January 27, 2021.

Watch the discussion unfold here:

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