‘Challenging time’ for council staff

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The Invercargill City Council building on Esk St, Invercargill.

THERE is a lot of “fear, stress and frustration” among Invercargill City Council staff following a proposed restructuring, a staff member says.

The employee said many staff might have supported a realignment proposal, but the way it was handled showed a “lack of empathy” by those who made the decisions.

The Southland Express spoke to multiple council staff members from different areas, who requested anonymity as they feared for their jobs.

The ICC proposal, leaked to the Otago Daily Times last week, says along with some jobs being cut, 13 would be established, while others would have reporting lines changed.

The purpose of the restructuring was to address key issues identified by the council’s leadership team, with the need for “a greater sense of urgency in the way we perform our activities”, greater engagement with the community and improved delivery of capital programmes.

One of the staff members said the way the proposal was delivered was wrong.

“The organisation needed it [a restructure]… but the way it has been done was not right. They just dumped the news on everyone after very stressful weeks of lockdown.

“It was very badly planned and they had not done enough ground work or consultation with the union.”

The realignment proposal, presented to staff on March 13, was different from the one they received previously.

The staff member feared for the future of their job as they believed the council might be using the Covid-19 event as a “scapegoat” to cut jobs.

“Invercargill doesn’t offer many opportunities in my area. So, if anything happens, I would probably need to move out of the city. And we don’t want this, as my life is here.”

Another staff member believed the restructuring could affect the quality of services provided by the council as there would be a big reduction in staffing levels.

“The council is filling this gap with contractors, which have a much higher cost than staff on the floor.”

The council spent about $1.3 million on contractors last year, he said.

The staff member believed the proposal would go ahead despite consultation and employees would have to accept whatever was decided in what was “a very challenging time to find another job”.

“She [chief executive Clare Hadley] will definitely push us through… Some staff will keep going on but not in a particularly happy way, as they are in a place they don’t belong. The morale in the place will go down.”

Mrs Hadley acknowledged changes to staff structure brought “uncertainty and stress for all involved”.

“There is no easy way to present change which includes loss of jobs.”

This proposal was different from the one presented earlier, in part because of feedback received from staff, she said.

“Councillors are clear that greater communication and engagement with the community is needed. They recognise the community wants to see a focus on customer service.”

A significant part of the proposal was about changing reporting lines to create stronger teams and a more resilient organisation. There were no proposed cuts to services in the community, she said.

“We remain in a consultation period, and if staff are able to identify ways that will improve the outcomes council seeks, it would be helpful if they could communicate those to the management team.”

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