Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Letter to Christchurch City Councillors

Dear Christchurch City Councillor,

The Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce is the largest Business Support Agency in the South Island and represents the interest of thousands of Christchurch based businesses.

Since the release of the news regarding the extra days holiday to be given to all council staff, each month for the next 11 months we have received many calls and emails from our members. We have also been contacting members to ascertain their opinions on the issue. The responses have been overwhelmingly negative.

As has been reported in The Press and other media the concerns are as follows:
  1. This unilateral action sets a costly precedent which will need to be managed by all Christchurch based businesses. Already employees across Christchurch are asking their employers why they cannot be treated in the same way. The answer is very clearly, that employers simply cannot afford this sort of largesse.
  2. Giving all staff an extra 11 days leave through to next November sends a strong signal that the Council is over resourced. If this can be accommodated within current resources then that indicates that there is fat in the system. Of course if current resources have to be unreasonably stretched to cater for an effective 5% reduction in the workforce then that will only increase stress. This is exactly the opposite of what is trying to be achieved.
  3. Whichever way this is looked at, it is a cost to the ratepayers. The calculation can be easily done if total remuneration figures are analysed, but it clearly runs into many millions of dollars. There are also serious concerns about a reduction in service level capability as a result of reduced resources.
  4. We, as an employers’ organisation, consider the gifting of an extra days paid holiday per month to each employee, to be poor employment practice under these circumstances. If the objective is to be a good employer and to deal with members of the team who have the potential to become stressed, then this should be managed on a case by case basis. We all appreciate that people are our greatest resource but their issues can be much better addressed on an individual, as needs, basis.
  5. Many are asking questions as to the legitimacy of the proposal. A change in working conditions of all staff of this magnitude would be regarded as a significant policy shift in the private sector, requiring Governance approval. We seriously question whether in this instance delegated authorities have been breached? We will be seeking advice on this matter.
  6. Many of our members were deeply concerned at the cost of the $80,000 communications review carried out by the Council earlier this year. The results of that review were hard hitting. Undertakings were given to change behaviours in Council including no surprises to Councillors and the Council’s commitment to engagement with the community on significant issues. It seems that nothing has changed in terms of communication, with Councillors only learning of the significant shift in employment policy through the media. The requirement of community engagement on significant issues also seems to have been overlooked.
  7. The other issue of potential significance is the status of employees of Council controlled companies and companies operated through Christchurch City Holdings Ltd. Is it intended that this policy will spill over into these companies and if so with what justification?
The Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce wants to see these issues addressed immediately. We believe a full and detailed inquiry must be conducted, the real costs identified and any breaches of delegated authority identified and addressed.

We do not expect one of the largest employers in Christchurch, who remunerates using public funds to act in this manner.

It works against the interest of the business community, most of whom have toiled assiduously in the face of significant challenge to ensure that our city and our region will continue to thrive and prosper. We can assure most are angered by this issue and want to see it addressed quickly and effectively.

As the leaders of the entity involved in this matter we seek your assurance of a prompt and effective resolution.

Yours sincerely

Peter Townsend

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