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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Thursday, 11 December 2008
Over educated political blogger in stoush with job agency over churning
Mood:  energetic
Topic: economy

Well that was the economy.

China is way down to some 5% growth from a 12% sprint (Crikey ezine reports yesterday) while Chinese exports are negative apparently. RBA chief Glenn Stevens also notes on ABC World Today show 'the China story is where it's really at for Australia':

ABC World Today China's economic growth understated: Stevens 10 Dec 2008

The Reserve Bank governor, Glenn Stevens, says China's economy is growing at a slower pace than the official figures of 8 per cent. Economists have backed his comments, with one leading analysts saying it's likely China is growing at around 5 per cent.

Sydney's economy has contracted ... oh let's say about 10%. Building workers are being laid off in their "thousands" in the December quarter says unionist Andrew Ferguson on ABC TV news last night.

NSW Treasurer Roozendaal on ABC Stateline last Friday admitted Sydney is more exposed being a global finance sector kind of place.

So the editor of this micro news service (70% USA readers apparently) had a 12 month review yesterday with our job agency. Don't jump to conclusions now: We live a busy life - 2 biggish pro bono environmental cases in the last 6 months, part time paid work work as a secretary. About 10 job applications a week. Always building the blog portfolio. Free conferences to attend and report on.

The odd repair and resale hobby via The Bower. We rebuilt a bike totally from spares earlier this week. Our last temping job for 4 weeks was with Allen Arthur Robinson. The temp agency rang again yesterday to see if we were still on call. Of course dear. Never a dull moment.

But the truth is we have a long, long google tail. Anyone can see we are political and more than that, quite effective, indy and fiesty and therefore worriesome. We may even be unemployable. How's that for Gough Whitlam's free education and 2 degrees.

We have left two jobs in the last 2 years due to illegal behaviour of the employer. We're a bit like that - we don't like bullshit, or liars. And we find 20K readers per month on this non profit, 'non advertising' blog alot more socially satisfying and constructive anyway. Look out for advertising any week now.

But as good natured G pointed out "Does it lead to work?" "Does it get you off the dole?" To which we said Mission Australia job agency is laying off 200 staff. You might be out of a job soon too. Here is the news:

8 Dec 2008 Staff face sack at charity job network - National - smh.com.au

Adele Horin

MISSION AUSTRALIA has joined the Salvation Army in announcing retrenchments in their Job Network agencies, just as unemployment is expected to rise.

Between 100 and 120 jobs will be lost at the Salvation Army, and last week Mission Australia said 73 positions would go, mostly in NSW. The agencies - the two biggest providers of job placement services - cited the lack of job vacancies because of the global financial crisis as the main reason.

Under contracts with the Federal Government, the Job Network agencies get their biggest payments for placing long-term unemployed people in jobs and for maintaining them in work for at least 13 weeks.

But with businesses putting the brakes on hiring and able to choose newly unemployed and better-skilled people for any vacancies, the long-term unemployed are missing out and income is declining for Job Network agencies.

Mission Australia's executive leader of employment services, Leisa Hart, said vacancies in the job market had fallen steeply over the past four months, particularly in NSW.

Mission Australia's placements into jobs were down 25 per cent year on year in October and 31 per cent last month.

"Job Network providers receive the bulk of their payment as they place people into work. If the vacancies aren't there, then that impacts on income."

Because Mission Australia used the surpluses generated by its Job Network agencies to fund its charity work, it had to act with great care in financial matters.

"If our employment services are doing it tough that has a direct impact on our ability to provide crucial community services," Ms Hart said.

A Mission Australia Job Network manager said staff would be told on Tuesday next week who would lose their jobs.

"Managers have been told who is to go, but we're not allowed to tell staff. It's disgusting."

Ratios would increase from one staff member to 80 clients to one staff member to 100 clients, she said.

"Bad times are coming, and more people are coming through the door, but you don't make very much money out of those [newly unemployed] people."

David Thompson, the chief executive of Jobs Australia, the peak body for not-for-profit providers, said Job Network agencies would face tougher times under new three-year government contracts to take effect in July.

This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2008/12/07/1228584656089.html

Our job agency dude looked a bit cranky after that and told me to come back in the New Year.  We explained the long google tail which might have been journo Thomas Friedman's point to his kids. Indeed it was here 18 months ago:

In a flat world imagination is the key - Opinion - smh.com.au Thomas Friedman
May 4, 2007

"The fourth thing I tell my kids is that how you do things matters so much more today. We are living in a transparent age where everything you do is going to leave a digital footprint never to be erased.

Our kids will not have the luxury we have of being wild and crazy when they were young because it's on somebody's cell phone camera forever. It's in somebody's MySpace. Everyone who has a cell phone is a paparazzo. Everyone who has a blog is a journalist and when everyone is a paparazzo and a journalist, everyone else is a public figure - so be good.

Last, imagination matters most of all. We always think of economic competition as between countries and countries or between companies and companies. The most important competition is between you and your imagination.

Therefore the country that's going to win is the country that empowers more of its people to imagine and to act on its imagination. Washington DC today is brain dead. But do not be misled by that, because the rest of our country is alive. "

Now we're researching why 3 days job searching with 15 applications in a falling market, instead of 2 days and 10 applications, is illogical. Especially when my existing "Activity Agreement" is still valid until April 2009. 

P - the manager at said job agency rang and said 'it's becaue I'm in the next continuum'. But he says it like it's punishment for being partially unemployed 12 months. Like he's the tough guy who runs the boot camp. To which we said "Do you know what section of the Social Security Act 1991 that is based on?" Oh I'm not a lawyer, you will have to talk to DEEWR (presumably Dept of Employment Education & Workplace Relations).

Indeed G let the cat out of the bag "The best thing for us would be you get 6 months work so we get paid, than you get sacked and come back here. Then we do it all again." Quite.

We suggested to P the agency manager we would probably be talking to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal instead about the job agency breaching my Activity Agreement by trying to change the terms mid contract.


Postscript #1

We had a some phone calls today with

- Centrelink inquiries who referred us to DEEWR Hotline

- Stewart at Job Network Hotline,

- Frances Hadlington lawyer at DEEWR Job Network Legal Section in Canberra,

- an intern on reception at the Welfare Rights Legal Centre in Sydney.

Stewart felt sure the job network provider can change the Activity Agreement at any time but he couldn't give me any legal basis for that (other than Government Guidelines on the DEEWR website). We discussed with all these folks legal concepts like administrative law principles of judicial review involving 'inflexible application of policy' given:

- political economic circumstances and

- our Activity Agreement still on foot until April 2009,

- as well as political blogger status with about 20K readers per month.

 The NSW Ombudsman's office was also discussed.

Ms Hadlington in particular was friendly then increasingly professional and frosty as the issues were outlined including the political economic concerns about churning of the structurally unemployed which the Govt would have to grapple with in policy terms sooner or later.

Interestingly it turns out my particular job agency is tendering for their federal govt funding again in July 2009 and will want to get their statistics in shape for their pitch.


Postscript #2

12 Dec 2008 - The great irony is we like our local local job agency and most of the staff. The word on the street is they provide the best service and facilities compared to the other places. We do our regulation job applications and go on our way. But when we noticed a new manager was alot more pushy and started throwing his weight around well we confess we decided to engage rather than be passive. Not alot just a bit and entirely professional.

Now our man has dug himself in a bit of a hole as indicated by the Activity Agreement extract below and now blank signed transfer form below. In other words he knows he's got a legally valid Activity Agreement on foot till April 2009  inconsistent with a legally dubious inflexible Govt Dept guideline to re-issue another Activity Agreement immediately to intensify job searching in a falling market.  

My man just wants 'the issue' to disappear. Talk about blink. Why would we transfer? As George Orwell would say - it's all good research.

My man has already offered - behind closed doors - to make the third day per week an "offsite job search activity to get an agreed resolution". Poor bastard. His eagerness to over enforce the rules on the unwashed has resulted in tripping over his own feet and bruising his forehead. Doh! It may have been at the moment we revealed knowledge of the sensitive July 2009 tender. Is it about power or helping the unemployed into work? Of course it's about power, this is NSW after all.

The irony is that his job is in my hands now: Trying to avoid a difficult job seeker case (given our history of sometimes very effective political blogging free speech). Trying to quash an inconsistent Activity Agreement to April 2009 that 'conflicts with the computer programme'. Trying to refer me as far away as Burwood or Ashfield!? How indeed has it come to this, he must be asking himself. As we commented to one of the staff "I know you are just doing your job, it's the system, sister".

We did get a call back from the alluring Ms Frances Halingdale in the DEEWR legal dept who said she has referred my legal question of inflexible application of policy etc onto the right people in DEEWR. Meanwhile my man wants me to sign a new Activity Agreement by midday today or be reported for "a failure". Mmm. It's a railroad. I don't think so. Not yet anyway. We've won a case in the 3 person Social Security Appeals Tribunal before as pro bono for our disabled volunteer Carol. We got a $6K debt recovery dismissed because she is as innocent as the day is long. They are honest people there, and so are we.

Postscript # 3 11.55 am 12 Dec 2008

Well as they say God helps those who help themselves. As usual the social services sector are too busy and unavailable so we checked out the legislation ourselves as below. On the strength of this we postponed the 'negotiation to vary the Activity Agreement' as per section 606 (5) (a) of the Social Security Act 1991 until Tuesday next week. Which just happens to be our usual day at the job agency under the current Activity Agreement.

And the legal definition of "negotiation" to vary my AA? Well we do suspect as per dictionary.com it means agreement of both parties subject to reasonableness (just like the right to negotiate in native title land law?):


1.mutual discussion and arrangement of the terms of a transaction or agreement: the negotiation of a treaty.
2.the act or process of negotiating.
3.an instance or the result of negotiating.

Our evidence of reasonableness relates to contractions in most economic sectors here in Sydney. Not least the Legal Affairs section of The Australian today and all the other news generally. 


Sent: Friday, December 12, 2008 11:28 AM
Subject: Lastly legislation s.606 (5) (b) Re: contact details Re: Care to comment

Dear WR lawyers/case manager etc
My local Marrickville Legal Centre has referred me back to your office as the experts on the Social Security Act and Activity Agreements. .....
You may interested to consider section 606 of the SSA 1991 extract here via Austlii, especially sub section 5 about power to suspend and replace (but not cancel) and no doubt this is not exhaustive.
My existing Activity Agreement has not been suspended nor cancelled by a review. One assumes factors in (3)  and (4) (b), (c) and (g) would need to be formally considered for the AA to be suspended or cancelled on review.
Actually on reflection s.606 (5) (b) looks to be a slam dunk in my favour. Thanks for your time.
Yours truly, Tom McLoughlin, solicitor  tel. 0410 558838, 02-...


Newstart Activity Agreements--terms

             (1)  .....a Newstart Activity Agreement with a person is to require the person to undertake one or more activities that the Secretary regards as suitable for the person.


             (3)  In considering whether to approve the terms of an agreement with a person, the Secretary is to have regard to the person's capacity to comply with the proposed agreement and the person's needs.

             (4)  In having regard to a person's capacity to comply with an agreement, the Secretary is to take into account, but is not limited to the following matters:


                     (b)  the state of the local labour market and the transport options available to the person in accessing that market; and

                     (c)  the participation opportunities available to the person; and


                     (g)  any other matters that the Secretary or the person considers relevant in the circumstances.

             (5)  An agreement with a person:

                     (a)  may be varied (in negotiation with the person) or suspended; and

                     (b)  if another Newstart Activity Agreement is made with the person, may be cancelled; and

                     (c)  may be reviewed from time to time at the request of either party to the agreement; and

                     (d)  may be cancelled by the Secretary after a review under paragraph (c).

Posted by editor at 5:57 AM EADT
Updated: Friday, 12 December 2008 12:37 PM EADT

Friday, 3 April 2009 - 1:56 PM NZT

Name: "Gharr"
Home Page: http://www.geocities.com/mymessages2008

It appears the agreement you enter into with centrelink and the Job network you are forced to accept are not a contract but only walk, talk and speak like a contract.

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