Museum staff union claims Premier’s Review snub

The union representing SA Museum workers has raised concerns about the Premier’s Review of a controversial planned restructure, saying it believes it might not get the opportunity to contribute.

May 22, 2024, updated May 22, 2024
PSA general secretary Natasha Brown at an April rally to protest SA Museum restructure plans. Photo: Charlie Gilchrist/InDaily

PSA general secretary Natasha Brown at an April rally to protest SA Museum restructure plans. Photo: Charlie Gilchrist/InDaily

Premier Peter Malinauskas announced the Premier’s Review into the SA Museum’s “reimagining” on April 26, following a backlash over mooted gallery changes and moves to axe research jobs amid wide restructure plans.

The panel will consult and report back to the Premier and Arts Minister Andrea Michaels within several months.

The Public Service Association representing museum workers said that it wrote to the Premier on May 2 welcoming the inquiry.

“Our members are not opposed to constructive change at the Museum and welcome the opportunity to bring their years of experience and creative vision to a genuine consultation process,” PSA general secretary Natasha Brown wrote.

“It is the PSA’s strong position that the depth of knowledge, skills and experience held by our members at the SA Museum must not be overlooked in their review process, and that their voices need to be heard and should be integral to any recommendations the Review panel makes regarding a way forward for this important South Australian institution.

“It is the PSA’s expectation that our members working at the SA Museum will have an opportunity to share their views and ideas with the Premier’s Review panel.”

The PSA has also lodged a dispute in the South Australian Employment Tribunal over what it claimed was “inadequate consultation over the proposed ‘Reimagining’ restructure”.

But the union says it received a reply from the Premier’s Review Panel Secretariat Billy Brine on May 16 expressing what it interpreted as a “don’t call us – we’ll call you” approach.

In the email seen by InDaily, Brine told the union that its letter to Malinauskas had been forwarded to him.

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“I have provided the Panel with your correspondence and will be in contact with you should there be any need for further information or if the Panel wishes to discuss your submission,” he wrote.

“While the Panel will not be a party to or engage in any industrial matters, SA Museum employees will have an opportunity to provide input into the functions and services of the museum, in areas contemplated in the Panel’s Terms of Reference which is available on the DPC website.”

A document from the Department of the Premier and Cabinet on “frequently asked questions” also states that the panel will not meet with museum staff about the restructure.

Brown said that the union was now concerned that the Premier’s Review “will not genuinely address apprehension of the museum staff and the broader South Australian community”.

“We also reiterated [in the letter] that it was our expectation that the review would genuinely address the range of concerns that have been raised by the PSA, our members and the broader South Australian public in relation to the future direction of the SA Museum,” she said.

“We have a major concern that the government’s intention may be to simply go through the motions of review, tweak a few things around the edges, and then go full steam ahead with implementing the Reimagining the Museum proposal.”

Arts Minister Andrea Michaels said that the PSA’s dispute process, now on hold, was not the subject of the review.

“The review is focussed on the Museum’s proposal to reimagine the Museum and we have appointed a panel of experts to make recommendations to us on a contemporary approach for the museum including its research functions and structure,” she said.

“Once that has concluded, the discussions with the PSA will resume. We expect that the Museum’s director will be engaging with them at an operational level in regards to staff as part of the process that will follow the review.

“I understand the concerns of their members and that’s why we have initiated this review and asked for it to be a rapid exercise.”

Earlier in May, a second inquiry by the Statutory Authorities Review Committee was also established by members of the standing committee after previously being rejected by the Upper House.

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