Marryatt defends extra council leave

Christchurch City Council boss Tony Marryatt
Christchurch City Council boss Tony Marryatt

Christchurch City Council chief executive Tony Marryatt is standing by his decision to grant his staff extra paid leave, saying it was not one that he made lightly.

Marryatt has faced a storm of criticism, mainly from the business community, since announcing the extra leave, but he says he cannot ignore how tired his staff are becoming.

"I can't allow this organisation to burn out in the short term and fail to meet our city's long-term needs," Marryatt says in a Perspective piece that appears in The Press today.

"Staff working across dozens of service areas are co-ordinating the repair of 1600 facilities, hundreds of kilometres of damaged underground pipes and roads and the restoration of many other services.

"Every day I come into work and see busy people doing their best for our city.

"I also see how tired our people are becoming and I won't ignore this.

"Our people are our greatest resource and I am incredibly proud of the work that council employees have done for this city.

"We cannot afford to lose the expertise, institutional knowledge and city understanding that sits with our staff.

"International examples show us that, if we don't act now, this is exactly what will happen."

Marryatt said that after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans had lost every management-level city official within five years because they had burned out, left the city or, in the worst cases, died.

Here, the council was already noticing staff turnover increasing, sick leave rising and a five-fold increase in use of internal staff counselling services. It was for those reasons the executive team made the decision to introduce staff support days, he said.

"The leave days will not impact our levels of service: libraries will remain open, phones will be answered, assessments and repairs on our damaged facilities will continue and complex decisions will be made.

"Staff will manage their workloads and take the days when it works best - everyone will pitch in to make it work," Marryatt said.

Councillor Aaron Keown said yesterday he totally supported Marryatt's decision and believed it was the right thing to do as international research stressed the importance of looking after staff in post-disaster situations.

The Press