More personal grievances against Napier City Council in pipeline
Morale at Napier City Council remains low following a large restructure last year, and there are more personal grievance cases to be aired in coming months, the staff union claims.
Following the Employment Relations Authority hearing involving a former council manager this week, the association, which represents 156 of the council's more than 650 staff said it was "great to finally see a case get in front of the authority" as numerous staff had signed confidentiality settlements that prevented them from discussing the circumstances of their departures.
"With the ERA reviewing this case, details regarding treatment of staff during the restructure are now in the public arena. Two further cases are also heading to the ERA within the next few months," the council's staff association said in a statement on Thursday.
Council chief executive Wayne Jack said it was not great to have a case heard in the authority, and it was only a small number of staff who were feeling aggrieved and this was to be expected after such a restructure.
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Jack said "the realignment process has been positively received by the vast majority of council's hard working employees".
On Tuesday the authority heard the matter of council's former stormwater asset manager, Scott Estcourt, who claimed he had been unjustifiably dismissed and disadvantaged. He sought some $50,000 in redundancy compensation and $15,000 for hurt and humiliation. Authority member Mike Loftus will decide the matter in coming months.
The association said it took a huge emotional and financial toll for employees to pursue the dispute process and council did not have the same constraints.
It said the restructure had not been about saving money or retaining knowledge of important assets and procedures.
"The amount of knowledge and expertise that has literally walked out the door over the past year is astounding. This has an unavoidable impact on the quality of customer service and vital infrastructure relied upon by the people of Napier. Morale at the council remains low and resignations are still occurring due to this," it said.
Jack said all employees had the right to pursue personal grievances "and the NCC respects those rights".
"Most employment problems are able to be resolved internally. A fraction will end up in mediation, an even smaller number will go to a hearing. This is what has happened in the case of Mr Estcourt despite council's best efforts to avoid this emotional and financial cost," he said.
Estcourt and all staff were treated very fairly, Jack said.
"Whether the council is obliged to pay out ratepayer money in the form of redundancy compensation under its Collective Employment Agreement, as well as 'hurt and humiliation' compensation, is a matter which the authority will clarify," he said.
He said the claim that customer service and vital infrastructure had been negatively affected by the realignment was "completely unfounded and simply untrue".
The council has acquired "highly qualified, broadly experienced talent in the infrastructure area and has retained most of its talented staff across all areas of council".
"Valued employees like Mr Estcourt were offered ongoing positions where possible. The realignment is, and was, about making sure we had the right capabilities and structure in place to meet the expectations of our customers and community, and manage our infrastructure now and into the future. We have achieved that aim," he said.
There had been 12 resignations directly related to the realignment as at January.