By J. Brock (FINN)
A public meeting was held in the court and Assembly Chamber of the town hall at 1700hrs on Monday, 18 august 2014. Present were The Hon Mr roger Edwards, MLA, the Hon Mr Mike Summers, MLA, the Hon Mrs Jan Cheek, MLA, the Hon Mrs Phyl Rendell, MLA, the Hon Mr Michael Poole, MLA, and the Hon Gavin Short, MLA. Dr the Hon Barry Elsby and the Hon Mr Ian Hansen did not attend.
Questions from the floor included one from Stella Prindle-Middleton who said she was confused about a letter in last week’s Penguin News by the Head of the Department of Human Resources. She remembered one main point saying that dismantling or changing is always difficult. She asked what is happening in Human Resources and were there any major changes like outsourcing payroll.
PR: Ian Hansen has the portfolio for Human Resources. I have to confess I didn’t read the Article.
SPM: It is just a letter.
JC: there is a whole series of things. We have a very complex management code which we are hoping to get made simpler. It is very difficult to administer. Certainly things like that are being worked on but I don’t know what specifically what was being referred to.
GS: there is a wish not only to simplify but to devolve things down to the Shop floor. I think the payroll still gives people headaches. Quite a few departments are still struggling with it and having to spend a lot of their time going through it.
MS: It has long been the view of elected Members in previous Assemblies as well as this that a lot of recruitment performed by Government should be performed at a different level and ought to be devolved sown to section heads and department heads and not all be done centrally. And that is one of the things that HR is tasked with and are working on and is part of their difficulty. Not all departments are suitably equipped to do their own recruitment. They don’t have the necessary knowledge, expertise and training.
SPM: Is that process a new thing that is happening.
MS: It is certainly new to this Director and this director had to take up the responsibility of making that happen. I believe that he also looked at a number of ways in which he thinks that recruitment can be done more effectively with recruitment overseas. But sometimes it takes a change of mind-set and I suspect his letter was reflective of that. But you are right. This letter was somewhat of a pain, wasn’t it?
SPM: I wondered what was going on. Thank you.
Phil Middleton brought up the casual employment situation within Government. We have a situation where FIG seems to continually employ people on a casual worker basis. Whereas the casual worker takes whatever is offered when they take up the job, a situation has occurred with the nominal privatisation of the Post Office that many casual worker staff got no benefits whatsoever. They were not made redundant because that doesn’t come under the casual rules basis. So they ended up literally not coming under any of the guarantees that were put forward when the privatisation package was put forward that the staff would be adequately compensated. The reason being, it doesn’t come up within employment law and it doesn’t come up in the management code. So they were left high and dry.
Mike summers raised the issue at the Executive Council in June for different reasons as he had become aware there were problems created by that and he asked that the Chief Executive through Executive Council to review that whole issue of particularly the rights of Casual workers in terms of employment law and most particularly the rights of casual workers in the future should there be another privatisation or something similar. So I wholly concur with your view that it cannot be right that casual workers, some of whom have been employed on a reasonably long-term basis as casual workers have no rights under the employment law or under the Government’s management code.
Jan Cheek feels there needs to be a definition of when a casual worker ceases to be a casual worker. Gavin Short agreed saying that these poor people drop between everything and are not covered under the present workers’ protection but he hopes that in the life of this Assembly there will be a re-write of that and he would like to see it cover temporary workers and part time workers. These were grey areas that need to be black and white.
Phil Middleton wanted to know whether this comes under the management code and he added it was a mess. Gavin Short wants to see a re-write of the workers protection legislation. Mike summers acknowledged that it should be done in different ways. Under the existing management code Government can address the issue of its casual workers as well as it being enshrined in employment law in general. Michael Poole added that the current management code already stipulates that departments shouldn’t be employing people casually for more than 12 months and from my experience in Government departments don’t always stick to that. There are some who have been on a casual basis for 18 months or more. It is up to departments to grapple with that and actually wright a paper about the posts that are actually needed. If they are employed for that amount of time they clearly do.
Phil Middleton said that for clarification 18 months is the short end of the wedge and Michael Poole added that there are some who had been causally employed for years now. Mike Summers added that there was certainly a gap in Government regulations.