Office of the Sheriff: Staff shortages, bullying, and fair pay rises - Public Service Association

Office of the Sheriff: Staff shortages, bullying, and fair pay rises

The Sheriff’s Office Vocational Branch Advisory Group (SOVBAG) met on Wednesday 23 February to discuss a number of key industrial issues affecting its members.

Staff shortage crisis across the Office of the Sheriff

The PSA and the SOVBAG Delegates raised the issue of chronic staff shortages with the Sheriff and her executive team in our Joint Consultative Committee (JCC) meeting. The historic staff shortage across the Office of the Sheriff (SHO) over many years have placed undue pressures on staff and has increased risks for the provision of quality security services across the courts and tribunal system in NSW. The PSA is concerned that the lack of a planned coordinated recruitment and retention strategy is contributing to the crisis. There are a number of industrial issues arising for PSA members, but not limited to following:

  • Increased security risks and hazards to staff, stakeholders and court users
  • Increased workloads pressures and actual risks to staff safety and well-being
  • Over-reliance on private security firms to provide minimal security functions to cover vacancies
  • Staff report increased pressures in accessing entitlements and flexible work arrangements
  • Increased levels of dissatisfaction and negative experience at work leads to low retention.

SHO confirmed that there are two recruitment classes scheduled for this year. Alpha Class commences this month for a period of 10 weeks’ training. There are 35 new recruits in Alpha Class. Bravo class is proposed to commence after July and is targeted to have 35-40 new recruits.

The PSA believes this is not enough to fill current vacancies and has requested vacancy numbers across all SHO classifications.

Identified reasons for high attrition and staff leaving the Office of the Sheriff

  • Low pay rates restricted by the award and wage increase capped at 2.5 per cent by government policy
  • Perception of limited career opportunity and progression
  • Poor workplace culture and workplace experience.

People Matters Survey indicate trend of widespread dissatisfaction and negative workplace culture

The 2021 People Matters Survey (PMS) indicates an increased perception of negative workplace culture. Respondents to the survey report an increase in levels of bullying, harassment, sexual harassment and racism, often leading to higher levels of dissatisfaction and poor workplace experience. The PSA and SOVBAG raised our concerns with the lack of any real actions to address what is a serious problem with the Sheriff at the JCC meeting Thursday 24 February.

SHO responded that it is considering strategies to improve workplace culture. The Sheriff indicated she will commence meetings across all major hubs to discuss the PMS results.

The PSA asks its members to report instances of bullying, harassment and sexual harassment experienced at work so that official grievances can be lodged.

CCTV policy and compliance requirements with relevant legislation

The PSA is seeking legal advice in relation to recent directive from the Sheriff notifying staff that legislation had changed and that CCTV may be used for performance and misconduct investigations.

Court Officers’ salary grade application process

SHO Court Officers salary remains disconnected and inconsistent with their Court Officer colleagues working across Local courts. The PSA is in the process of collating information to advocate for salary upgrade of Court Officer from general scale to clerk grade 1/2. There will be difficulties with prosecuting a successfully work value case in the NSW IRC, due to the NSW governments wage cap restriction and resistance to provide fairness to public sector employees.

Public Sector Wages Policy

In 2011, the NSW Coalition Government legislated to keep Public Sector wages down, deciding that 2.5 per cent would be the maximum annual pay rise the Public Sector could claim. The PSA lodges an annual pay claim on behalf of our members, but each year for the last decade, we have been limited, by law, to a maximum of 2.5 per cent.

The effect of inflation and the NSW Government’s cap on wage increases means that the real wages of members have declined. This is compounded by members only receiving a 0.3 per cent salary increase in 2020 after the Government attempted to freeze Public Sector wages.

PSA wage claim 2022

The PSA executive has approved for real wage claim of at least 3.6 per cent, which is above the NSW Government’s 2.5 per cent salary cap policy to ensure public sector workers keep pace with inflation and superannuation increases. The NSW Government will resist change to its policy and will spend considerable resources to ensure public sector workers are not commensurately rewarded for their increased efforts over the past two years.

To have your say on the pay claim, and whether you support industrial action over this, please respond to our survey HERE or contact your regional SOVBAG delegates or the PSA.

Listen to the PSA Podcast discussing this issue on Facebook HERE. Or search PSA CPSU in your favourite podcast app and subscribe to the PSA Podcast.

Current SOVBAG delegates vacancies – we need you to strengthen your union

There are a number of vacancies in the SOVBAG Committee that need to be filled in the following areas / regions. If you work in the regions below and are interested in shaping SOVBAG issues, please respond with your expression of interest to the PSA.

1 – Sheriff’s Officer Delegate role for Western Sydney
1 – Sheriff’s Officer Delegate role for Illawarra South Coast
1 – Sheriff’s Officer Delegate role for North East / Northern Tablelands / North West
1 – Jury Services/Court Officers Delegate role for Western Sydney or regional NSW

SOVBAG delegates

Stephen Hancock SO Downing Centre, Metro Sydney Region

Pam McKenzie CO JS Downing Centre, Metro Sydney Region

Lora Braytih COU Parramatta District, Greater Sydney Region

Paul O’Shea SO Newcastle, Hunter North Region

Glenn Elliott-Rudder SO Wagga, Illawarra Sough Region

Joseph Safour SO Wagga, Central South West Region

PSA industrial staff

Andy Wright Justice SHO Industrial Officer

Latu Sailosi Justice SHO Organiser

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