Communities: Important update for regional Members

Posted October 25, 2011 by Alex Scott

The work done by our members in Communities benefits Queenslanders from all walks of life and some of the most challenging work is done in our regional areas, where members face the tyranny of distance on top of everything else.

That's why it is disappointing that recently there appears to have been a change in the way Regional Management are dealing with some entitlements that make working in remote locations a little easier. Some managers have been refusing reasonable requests to combine work and personal travel as well as knocking back learning and development opportunities that would previously be approved.

We need to stand up and ensure that the Managers respect and value their regional and rural staff, not punish them. If you want more information on these important issues please read below:

Combining Work and Personal Travel

Members across multiple regions have raised issues with union delegates about the application of departmental policy relating to the ability to combine work and personal travel. The current policy suggests that managers should consider the public perception of granting such requests. This wording, coupled with a very senior delegation level requiring several levels of management endorsement prior to final approval, appears to have created a significant tightening of the approval of these requests.

While the union agrees provisions such as these should not be used inappropriately, one of the intentions of having such a policy is to recognise that employees should be able to add a reasonable amount of personal travel onto legitimate work based travel arrangements, where there is no extra cost to the department and where the work activity is the primary function of the travel. These kinds of provisions are particularly important for workers who are based in remote settings and communities, and who may not often get the opportunity to visit mainland cities or access the normal kinds of supports and facilities that can sometimes be taken for granted. Our union is concerned that, based on feedback from members in some regions, very legitimate requests are not being recognised under the policy.  Our union has provided formal feedback to the departmental review of this policy requesting that the policy wording be amended to provide a fairer and consistent approach to these requests.

Union representatives met with the Associate Director General, Tony Hayes, who assured us it was not his intent to refuse reasonable requests to combine work and personal travel. The ADG committed to investigating issues further with Regional Executive Directors in areas where the concerns had been raised, and developing clear understandings with regions about how these requests should be managed. If you have a request refused, email the union office immediately at communities@together.org.au.

Learning and Organisation Development (L+OD) opportunities

Members in the North Queensland and Far North Queensland regions have also raised concerns about difficulties staff are experiencing when attempting to access legitimate Learning and Organisation Development (L+OD) opportunities, as per the Remote and Regional Locations Incentive Scheme Policy which came into effect on 1 July 2011. A key component of our union’s consultation discussions with the Department was around maintaining the previous access of some employees in rural and remote areas who had access to $3000 per years in L+OD. This was confirmed through the following commitment in the policy: 

Eligibility for learning and development
  • All employees in remote and regional locations will have access to learning and development opportunities valued at $3000 per annum.
  • All employees are provided with access to learning and development opportunities under the department’s Learning and Organisational Development Strategy 2010-15.
  • All learning and development activities are to be aligned to individual Achievement and Capability Plans.

Unfortunately, due to the manner in which the L+OD Strategy is being rolled out through Learning Station, this is causing confusion and problems for regional and remote employees attempting to access legitimate L+OD opportunities. Our union is concerned that the commitment in the policy may not accurately capture the intent of our discussions during the consultation process and will work with the Department on a mutually agreed understanding about how employees can continue to access legitimate L+OD opportunities, regardless of whether or not the course, conference or training session is managed through the L+OD Strategy or not.

This issue has been formally raised with the Department, including directly with the Associate Director General, Tony Hayes. The Department has committed to work with delegates to ensure the commitments given are understood and honoured by all parties. Delegates need examples of where L+OD opportunities have been refused.

If you have a request refused, email the union office immediately at communities@together.org.au.

 


Authorised Alex Scott, Secretary, Together.
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