Tensions at Limerick council laid bare in staff survey

Fintan Walsh

Reporter:

Fintan Walsh

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MORE than 60% of engineers and planners in Limerick City and County Council are in favour of voting on industrial action, after a survey revealed that senior professional staff feel “undervalued” and that the newly formed local authority is “a mess”.

MORE than 60% of engineers and planners in Limerick City and County Council are in favour of voting on industrial action, after a survey revealed that senior professional staff feel “undervalued” and that the newly formed local authority is “a mess”.

A survey by the Local Authority Professional Officers (LAPO), a division within SIPTU, showed that 94% of its members do not agree with the new authority’s staffing structures.

It also shows that 88% have been impacted by the merger of the former Limerick County Council and Limerick City Council, with comments that “morale is on the floor” and that stress has been caused by understaffing.

Fianna Fáil councillor James Collins said that he has been critical of the “autocratic” management style of the council senior management for some time. Though he believes that the change was “necessary”, he said that “morale amongst senior management is very low.

“Many of them feel isolated from the decision-making processes and many of them actually feel most of the key decisions are being made and influenced from outside the organisation,” he said.

A comment in the survey said that there has been “no consideration whatsoever” of the workloads of the travel and transport department, and that “no allowances are made for staff on holiday or sick leave”.

Another of the anonymous comments is that there is a “distinct separation” between top management and staff, and that it is “now just existing on the goodwill” of staff.

“There’s a common consensus that management have no regard for staff and are out of touch, exerting their power by dictatorship model. The structure of the organisation is a mess,” the commenter said, adding that the “new organisation has ripped apart a previously functioning body”.

Cllr Collins said that there is a “displeasure” in how staff feel they are being treated.

“The problem with goodwill is that it only lasts for so long. If you are going to manage a project like this, you need to do it professionally, but you also have to be mindful of people and their jobs and their lives and their livelihoods.”

Mayor of Limerick City and County Liam Galvin said that he has been getting phone calls from colleagues that there are departments within the local authority that “are understaffed. The CEO and maybe ourselves need to come and look for more staffing. In my opinion, there are staff now being overworked. There’s more pressure coming onto staff and maybe it’s time to really look at it,” he said.

A spokesperson for the council said that SIPTU/LAPO trade union has confirmed that they are not in a dispute with the council at present, and said that it will continue to engage with the trade union in accordance with normal industrial relations procedures.

“It is the policy of Limerick City and County Council to engage fully with its employees and their representatives in relation to matters of concern to their employment. A management/trade union forum is in place and meets regularly in relation to organisational change and industrial relations matters generally.”