Editorial: The 11-day disaster

The Marlborough District Council need not get any ideas about being as generous to its staff as the Christchurch City Council plans to be next year.

By all accounts the Blenheim-based council treats its people quite well, thank you, and provides as much time as possible for them to enjoy a good work-life balance. Indeed, there are likely to be some in the private sector who would wish for equally good conditions.

The ratepayer accepts that the council must treat its staff well to have a good job done. But those ratepayers would erupt if they saw council staff getting a sweetheart deal like the one being introduced in Christchurch by council chief executive Tony Marryatt.

He plans to give all 2000-odd fulltime and part-time council staff an extra 11 days of annual leave during 2013 to help them deal with the stress and high workload caused by the Canterbury earthquakes.

The plan, hatched after a fact-finding mission to San Francisco, was to give staff a long weekend each month so they could get away from the city to relax and recharge.

Christchurch mayor Bob Parker, in supporting the plan this week, said the folks in the US had emphasised to the council how important it was to look after and retain their staff. The extra leave would not cost the council in cash and would increase productivity, he claimed.

These sorts of comments have raised eyebrows, questions and voices.

The extra leave might not actually add anything to its remuneration costs, but the staff will be paid for 11 days to do nothing. Work will not be done. If the council can get through the work with 11 less days from each of its 2000 staff members, then staff levels should be closely scrutinised because it suggests overstaffing.

Perhaps the plan will backfire and this will turn into a cost-saving exercise.

The bosses of Christchurch and their workers - people who have to make ends meet without the guarantee of public funds - are entitled to answers. The Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce is demanding a detailed inquiry, including the real costs being identified, and they should continue agitating until they have the answers.

Mr Parker's comments about this being a sensible plan suggests that he has lost touch with the commercial world, and will soon loose touch with the mayoral chains.

The Marlborough Express