Legal experts have picked apart the issues and implications for council employment deals under de-amalgamation.

With several councils in Queensland and the rest of the country seeking to undo recent moves to consolidate them, it will be confusing for many staff just where they will stand while the dust is settling.

Chief executive and consultant with lawyers Corrs Chambers Westgarth, Jack de Flamingh, says it will be a joint effort by council CEOs and Transfer Managers to determine the roles of the transferring employees in the interim organisational structure – and then decide what to do with those that cannot be meaningfully placed until new councils are formed.

Mr de Flamingh says it is uncharted legal ground, where moves will be closely monitored.

“Selection processes will be subject to close scrutiny from the unions and employees and so must follow a transparent and defensible process. In particular, CEOs and Transfer Managers should be able to defend their selection processes in the event of any claims of discrimination or breach of the freedom of association provisions of the Industrial Relations Act 1999 or the general protections provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009. The general protections provisions will apply if the relevant local government is considered a trading or financial corporation, which will depend on the activities undertaken by it,” he said.

Experts say new local governments are not obliged to employ transferring employees on the same conditions which applied before the changeover day. This is, however, subject to any awards or agreements which applied immediately before the changeover day – these will continue to apply.

“In these circumstances, the new local government may choose to modify the transferring employees' terms and conditions of employment... which may, for example, be found in individual employment contracts and workplace policies and procedures,” Mr de Flamingh says.

The legal authorities have provided the following list of recommendations and obligations for transfer managers and councillors to ease the transfer process;

  • be upfront with employees that will and will not be impacted by the de-amalgamation;
  • be proactive in providing information to employees to prevent it coming to their attention indirectly;
  • be consistent in all communications with employees – consider nominating defined contact persons and put key communications in writing to avoid confusion;
  • pick an appropriate forum for all communications, which may be through unions, by mass written communications or personally; and
  • respond to all employee concerns in a timely manner.