Jobs on the line at district council

Thirty-four Manawatu District Council staff face an uncertain future after being told their positions are to be disestablished.

The council's 120 full-time staff were informed of the restructuring plans on February 28, and 61 staff members made submissions.

After the submissions were considered, staff were individually told on Thursday how they would be affected.

As well as the 34 positions being disestablished, there are roles being modified and some redeployments.

Chief executive Lorraine Vincent said the number of people being made redundant was unknown at this stage as new positions were being established, which staff could apply for.

"This is the first significant reorganisation that affects the entire council since it was first established in 1989," she said.

"Change is never easy for people to get their head around and it can be an emotional cauldron."

Vincent said there were many factors driving the changes, but cost-cutting was not one of them.

"Things have changed over the last 25 years and we are here to serve our community. More central government responsibilities have been passed down, which has brought changes, and there is also a change in how the community expects council to react. Gone are the days when you give a couple of days to get back to people. They expect an instant response. We also have business opportunities that are whizzing on to our radar every day."

The full number of redundancies will be known after the interview and appointment process for the new positions. The new structure will take effect on June 3.

"Some people may choose voluntary redundancy," Vincent said.

"My preference is that new positions in this structure be filled by current permanent employees where we can, and they will be offered internally first, before we look to external advertising.

"I haven't carried out the reorganisation structure lightly as people's lives get thrown around. All the way through the process, the team has been mindful that people have work life and home lives, and this stuff is not easy."

The council's reporting structures will change, and administration will be centralised in a Business Support Hub.

"More priority will be given to project implementation, economic development and reacting quicker to opportunities," Vincent said.

"The regulatory area is moving more into business and economics."

Palmerston North PSA union organiser John Shennan has been on site to support staff.

"It is obviously very traumatic for staff and quite a shock to the group. We recognise for some people there is a likelihood to end up without a job at the end of the process."

Shennan said he has attended meetings to ensure staff interests were well represented.

He would continue to assist with any difficulties.

"We have been consulted throughout the process of the review. It has been a long time since there has been any reorganisation. We have no complaints about the review process itself, as it has been held sympathetically and competently."

Manawatu District councillors have been informed of the restructure and have approved it, but they are not privy to the finer details.

Vincent said many questions were asked during the reorganisation of the structure, such as customer focus and the use of technology. "It is all about customer accessibility, technology and being relevant for the next 20 years. We are here to assist and help customers and doing that in the best possible way."

Manawatu Standard