Worried staff join union

DANIEL ADAMS
Last updated 08:54 21/11/2012
Hamilton City Council
Fairfax NZ
INSECURE FEELING: As job fears grow, PSA membership at the Hamilton City Council overall has risen from 95 members to 152 in the past 12 months.

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Council restructuring has led to a surge in union membership. Daniel Adams reports.

Drawn-out restructuring expected to eventually axe 60 Hamilton City Council jobs is pushing worried staff into union ranks.

Public Service Association officials have provided figures showing that membership at HCC has soared by 60 per cent in the past 12 months.

Rolling restructures across all areas of council will help management carve $15m a year from operating budgets, with chief executive Barry Harris having set managers an end-of-year target to complete reviews.

City organisational development general manager Olly Te Ua said he was not concerned by council staff's increasing unionisation.

"We've been meeting with the PSA monthly since April this year. Those are good, productive meetings. We're aware of their increasing numbers."

In the latest area facing cuts, Waikato Museum, union membership has jumped five-fold to 50 per cent of staff since a restructure was unveiled.

Staff have been given two weeks to respond to the proposed restructure.

One worker who asked to remain anonymous said management's hurried approach to the restructuring had raised tensions and may prompt a raft of personal grievance cases from council workers being made redundant.

PSA national secretary Brenda Pilott said PSA members at the museum had been aware a restructuring proposal was coming and while they were taking part in the consultation process, they felt the time period was too short and they weren't being given a chance to properly respond to it.

"Under the proposal there will be an overall reduction of eight positions but the number of full-time equivalent positions will remain the same."

"That implies that the cuts will be to part-time and fixed term jobs and the worry for museum workers is that it represents a loss of staffing capacity and speciality staff.

"Basically they will be expected to do more with less at a time when visitor numbers have been steadily increasing," she said.

"The council needs to ensure that the views of staff are taken on board and transparently fed into the final proposal, before change is implemented."

PSA membership at the council overall has risen from 95 members to 152 in the past 12 months.

Libraries and organisational development have borne the brunt of cuts, with 29.5 positions disestablished and replaced by 22. In libraries all 14 new roles were filled by existing staff, but for organisational development just three of eight were.

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Six staff are expected to lose their jobs following the parks and open spaces review announced in September, to which staff had 12 days to respond.

- Waikato

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