NSW home for the RAIA, Tusculum Villa, Potts Point, Sydney

By Tina Perinotto
19 July 2011 –
NSW Australian Institute of Architects members have been shocked by the sudden retrenchment of four key long serving staff members of the Sydney office.

Institute insiders told The Fifth Estate that members were angry at the sudden retrenchment of well regarded staff members who were considered highly competent, and at not being consulted on the move.

The four administrative staff were informed of the decision on Tuesday last week and left on Friday.

But in no time leadership at the Institute has quickly closed ranks to support the organisation’s management.

Newly elected national president Brian Zulaikha said that “every organisation is entitled to its own methods of operation and to respond to its strategic plan in an appropriate way and that’s what has been done.”

He said there was “no new strategic direction” but instead the move was an evaluation of competencies and the way the business has been operated.

Management had an entitlement to make the decisions, he said.

“Management is not dictated to by the membership. The membership appoints the senior manager but the manager takes its own responsibility for its own administration.”

He said he believed members had personally contacted the former staff members  “but that’s nothing to do with the institute.”

NSW president Matt Pullinger told The Fifth Estate: “I think it’s a genuine attempt to restructure the resources we have available to better serve our members. The problem is that members haven’t been adequately consulted nor the potential benefits properly communicated.”

He said in an email to members on Tuesday (19 July) that he wished the departing staff members the very best wishes.

However, he made it clear that it was not the decision to restructure the NSW Chapter that was a concern “but that it could be conceived and implemented without seeking the views of the very members it is intended to serve.

“As NSW President, I share this concern. I was not consulted about the changes until 11 days before their implementation,” Mr Pullinger said in the email.

“I am confident that there may yet be benefits to the restructure, and I am sure it was motivated by a desire to build a stronger organisation. However, the simple fact is: not only were members not consulted, they have yet to be fully informed.

“As a member-based organisation, relying as much as it does on goodwill and volunteerism, this doesn’t auger well. And if the institute is to become a better organisation, more collaborative and consultative, then communication is critical.”

Mr Pullinger said that he would use the opportunity of the national council meeting, in less than two weeks to “press for a meaningful change of culture.”

He said chief executive officer David Parken had indicated his preparedness to listen.

Institute members said they understood the move may have been motivated by a desire to attract younger members into the organisation.

Staff members had been there for slightly less than eight years to 16 years.

RAIA chief executive David Parken and NSW office manager Roslyn Irons could not be contacted before publication.

editorial@thefifthestate.com.au