Wallis Lakes Mens Shed members to vote on plan for administrative autonomy

DISPUTE: Richard Bateson (left) and Shaun Coyne are seeking for administrative autonomy for the Wallis Lakes Mens Shed. Photo: Sally CodyreMembers of a Hunter mens shed have complained about ‘sweatshop’ like conditions where they were forced turn out bread boards andfurniture for the group’s parent organisation.

The allegation is one of a number of claims of men who worked at the Wallis Lakes Mens Shed, which is administered by Tuncurry-based groupGreat Lakes Community Resources Inc.

The shed’s 100 members are seeking to break away from the group’s control and will vote on Monday to have the shed’s resources transferred to the recently formedForster-Tuncurry Mens Shed.

Great Lakes MP Stephen Bromheadhas backed the push for autonomy.

Community Resources, which founded the shed in 2010, is resisting the push and has warned members they will not be allowed to access the facility or its equipment if they defect to the new men’s shed.

The wrestle for the control of the shedbegan late last yearwhen the previous executive was ousted in ballot.

Newly installed treasurerShaun Coyne said he was shocked to learn the shed did not have financial autonomy.

“We are not able to pay a bill or raise a bill without prior permission with Community Resources, also a request for petty cash would take a week to process,” he said.

The shed’s executive has requestedthe Minister for Fair Trading investigate the administrative relationship between Community Resources and the Wallis Lakes Mens Shed.

President Richard Bateson said members had complained theyfelt pressured to produce work as if they were working in a commercial workshop.

“Last year the guys were working in a sweatshop,” he said.

“It’s meant to be a place where you can work at your own pace. If you don’t want to do any work that’s fine too. But these guys were getting tapped on the shoulder to turn stuff out only to find the money was going to Community Resources.”

A Great Lakes Community Resources’ spokesperson rejected the claim.

“Wallis Lakes Men’s Shed is a fantastic facility, one of the best in the world, where men can practice hobbies at their leisure,” the spokesperson said.

Disgruntled members registered the name Forster-Tuncurry Men’s Shed and opened a separate bank account in February in an attempt to move forward.

“The accounts from2012-2017 showwe were making consistent losses. We have made $16,000 in the five months since we opened our own account,” Mr Coyne said.

“We have also seen membership increase by about 30 per cent.”

Meanwhile, the dispute over the shed’s administration has prevented a $8100 state government grant, awarded to Wallis Lakes Men’s Shed,from being accessed.

The spokesperson said he believed the dispute could be resolved and Community Resources would continue to administer the shed.

“We (Community Resources)don’t think anything is broken. We would need to be persuaded there needs to be change,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson will attend Monday’s meeting as an observer.

Great Lakes MP Stephen Bromhead said he supported the members’ push for administrative autonomy.

“Whilst I recognise the assistance Great Lakes Community Resources has provided in their infancy, the shed is now more than capable of managing their own affairs”

“I am disappointed that Great Lakes Community Resources has not put the wishes of the Shed membership first and foremost, in handing over control to the members”

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