STAFF SPEAK OUT – Council employees detail impact of restructure

Former staff members of Macedon Ranges Shire Council have spoken out about what they describe as a disregard for employee mental health and wellbeing in the lead up to and during the recent organisational restructure of the council.
The restructure included the dissolution of the Community Wellbeing directorate, reducing council’s four-tier structure to three.
Council chief executive officer, Margot Stork, said it had not been an exercise in finding redundancies and there had been no net job losses. However, dozens of highly experienced staff have left the organisation over the past two years, some resigning, some retiring, some being dismissed and some not re-employed in new roles.
Former employees told the Midland Express the staff departures amounted to an eradication of years of critically valuable local knowledge and experience, particularly in emergency management in which MRSC was considered a local government leader.
The former staff members said they were not critical of a restructure being undertaken but the way staff had been treated needed to be called out.
They said staff were being summoned to meetings with human resources without being told what their transgression had been, they were leaving without being able to say goodbye to their teams, and anxiety and stress was increasing across the workplace.
Multiple employees had taken out WorkCover claims.
One staff member who resigned said she left the organisation because she couldn’t accept workplace practices where people could arrive at work in the morning and leave without a word before lunchtime, without any contact with colleagues.
“Even if one’s job disappears in a restructure, there is a right way and a wrong way to acknowledge a human being’s contribution to an organisation,” she said.
“I resigned because at last count there were 17 staff members, former and current, who, if they could speak out without fear, would say out loud their mental health and wellbeing had been negatively impacted as a direct result of their workplace experiences.
“That’s unacceptable, especially in a workplace that has been celebrated like MRSC has been for addressing mental health issues for and with its community.”
Another staff member involved in establishing the award-winning Live4Life youth mental health program wrote an open letter of resignation, which was delivered to councillors, staff members and community stakeholders, outlining her experience.
“Council has been a leader in pioneering work to address some of the major issues impacting the lives of the Macedon Ranges community,” she wrote.
“Council’s Prevention of Violence Against Women in Emergencies Action Plan was the first of its kind in Australia.
“Live4Life is an example of what is possible when council steps up.”
The employee went on to detail how, over the past two and a half years, she had watched “this beautiful organisation change shape and colour”.
“Good people, people that I admired and relied upon, were suddenly ‘gone’ from the organisation, with little or no explanation,” she wrote.
“I watched on as, one by one, people were impacted by behaviours that remain bewildering.
“Good, decent, hard-working people, many of whom are residents in Macedon Ranges, many of whom were subjected to seemingly arbitrary disciplinary proceedings, including myself.
“Capable and strong colleagues started to dissolve in front of me; not being able to sleep, second guessing their work, quick to tears or silence, withdrawing from the things they enjoyed doing, feeling anxious all the time, fearing the next email from certain people, not able to socialise with friends and … not understanding how or why this was able to happen.”
The Express questioned Ms Stork about these issues and received the following responses.
“Staff, regulatory bodies and unions were all consulted in the recent restructure process, which was conducted in accordance with the Local Government Act and relevant awards,” she said.
“In regard to staff wellbeing, we have been advised by WorkSafe that our processes and policies are at a high level.
“Like all organisations, we have a number of staff on WorkCover claims.
“We do not intend to impact on the wellbeing of staff who have such claims by disclosing any further information on this.”
Ms Stork did not answer questions in relation to the handover of vital information from exiting staff members and declined to provide a rationale for progressing the restructure through a pandemic.
The mayor, Cr Janet Pearce, said it was not appropriate for councillors to comment on concerns that might be specific to certain current or former employees, nor whether those concerns warranted consideration of an investigation.

2 thoughts on “STAFF SPEAK OUT – Council employees detail impact of restructure

  • September 8, 2020 at 8:31 pm
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    Great article, it is shocking to hear this is taking place at such a terrible time. Our council must do better, and those who have caused these problems need to be held accountable. Hopefully unions, work safe etc can come in and support the remaining staff and get to the bottom of the issues, while trying to preserve what is left.

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  • September 11, 2020 at 4:01 pm
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    I write with concern about the disregard for employee mental health and wellbeing in the lead up to and during the recent organisational restructure of the Macedon Ranges Shire Council. I watched with dismay at the treatment of long term employees of the Council, my daughter included, who have been with the Council for 14 to 17 years. They were treated appallingly over restructures, They changed from happy, resourceful, hard working staff to stressed frustrated, unemployed people, with little or no explanation of reason for change. The Unit was recognised in the Community for its excellence, now most of the long time employees are gone. There has been irreparably damage done to them and the community by this.

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