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PSA threatens legal action over privatised Lands Titles Office


The public sector union is advising Lands Titles Office staff not to sign “inferior” working contracts offered by its “mysterious” new private operator, and is threatening to take the State Government to court, InDaily can reveal.

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The Public Service Association has been in dispute with the Government for more than a month over new contracts offered to LTO employees which, the union says, threaten their job security and fail to reveal vital details about working conditions.

PSA general secretary Nev Kitchin told InDaily his union would argue that members should be given leave without pay from the public service for two years once their employment is transferred to private consortium Land Services SA.

He wants all employees of the LTO – which oversees transactional land services in South Australia – to retain a “fallback position in the government” to maintain the job security they had once enjoyed.

In some cases, he said, LTO employees should be given pay rises under the new arrangements, adding that the company that runs the LTO would need the expertise of all existing employees to continue operating effectively.

“At this stage, (employees) are being offered contracts … which we believe are inferior to their existing work conditions,” Kitchin said.

“There’s no … start date in the new contracts.

“We’re not satisfied with the responses we received from the new company.

“The advice to our membership base is to not sign any of these contracts.”

However, a State Government spokesperson said the Government had consulted the PSA extensively during the commercialisation process.

“Discussions with staff and the PSA are ongoing and the Government aims to achieve resolution of outstanding issues through voluntary conciliation and information provision rather than arbitration,” the spokesperson said.

“As previously indicated would occur, the new service provider is making offers of employment to a significant number of current staff.”

The spokesperson said job offers began being made last week, and the transfer of staff was expected within a month.

“The majority of remaining staff will either assist with the transition to the new service provider or be placed in positions for functions retained by government,” said the spokesperson.

But Kitchin said PSA members were “very angry” about the ambiguous nature of the contracts they were being offered, as well as the ambiguous nature of the company that was offering them.

He said mystery surrounded the corporation that has been set up to run the LTO under the auspices of Land Services SA – Autumn Operating Company Pty Ltd.

According to ASIC documents, the company was registered in March this year, at Sydney’s Martin Place, and has one employee – secretary Lyndal Coates – plus a board of directors.

“You almost get the impression that this company is just a shelf company,” said Kitchin.

“We believe we may have to go to trial … to get more information about the company.

“The PSA makes no apology for … getting them the best possible (conditions for workers).”

But the Government spokesperson said there was “nothing unusual about the corporate structure of the new service provider”.

“The consortium consists of very reputable companies – Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets, and one of Canada’s largest pension investment managers, the Public Sector Pension Investment Board.”

A spokesperson for the consortium told InDaily Monday afternoon that the terms and conditions being offered to LTO employees are “consistent with those set out by the South Australian Government”.

“An extensive consultation process has been run to assist LTO employees who have been offered ongoing roles and the consortium remains committed to upholding all of the employment conditions required by the South Australian Government and will continue to work towards a smooth implementation of employment agreements,” the spokesperson said.

“Both members of the Land Services SA consortium have long and highly regarded public track records as owners and investors in important infrastructure assets around the world.”

The consortium did not respond to the claims concerning Autumn Operating Company.

The union will hold a meeting with members this afternoon to discuss the dispute.

Kitchin said a decision about whether to take the Government to court would likely be made by the end of this week.

Last month, Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis announced the Government had struck a deal to sell the LTO to Land Services SA, for an unexpectedly lucrative $1.6 billion.

The PSA last month declared it was “gearing up for industrial war” with the Government over an “outdated” enterprise bargaining agreement covering approximately 37,000 public servants.

InDaily contacted Macquarie Group for comment.

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