Hamilton City Council culture 'negative'

DANIEL ADAMS
Last updated 05:00 02/06/2012

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Hamilton city councillor Angela O'Leary says she has been approached repeatedly in recent months by council staff complaining of bullying and a poor workplace culture.

An annual internal survey of staff being released next week is expected to confirm a worsening assessment by staff of the council's culture and support for management.

A recent risk management report and employment data from the past year had highlighted the council's difficulty in retaining its best staff, and the private approaches showed some staff felt they could not approach their managers, Ms O'Leary said.

"I've been approached confidentially with claims about the company culture being very negative, and management being unwilling to listen to the concerns of staff.

"People feel they can't go to their managers for fear of retaliation. '

"There's been some comments also made to me about bullying, but they've been hesitant to give me any examples or detail about that. I've had four people approach me in the last 10 months, and one of them speaks for a few others."

Organisational development general manager Olly Te Ua said staff had several access points to air concerns, including managers, union delegates and human resource staff.

"We're also rolling out a harassment and conflict policy where we'll be training up 20 staff from various levels and across all the sites of the organisation, they'll be trained to listen to staff concerns and feed them through to the relevant managers," he said.

"We've had a difficult year, and it's a challenge to turn it around, but we're confident with strategies like the one I've described we will be able to turn it around so staff that are uncomfortable going to their manager will have a way of voicing their concerns."

The Public Service Association said the council had to take a hard look at itself over problems of staff retention and low morale outlined in the risk management report.

City council staff had been put through almost two years of constant reviews and restructuring, PSA national secretary Brenda Pilott said. That constant restructuring had taken its toll on staff and created a lot of workplace stress at the city council.

"It is interesting that the risk management report also puts the risk of organisational change being unmanageable for staff as very high," Mrs Pilott said.

She said there were clear indications there was more restructuring ahead, with plans to sell assets and cut services.

"That means more job insecurity, likely staff cuts and higher workloads," Mrs Pilott said.

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"The end result is that council staff end up paying the price for poor decision-making and Hamilton ratepayers are left with reduced services."

- Waikato Times

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