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Union to fight Tax Office on job cuts

Public service unions have vowed to challenge an industrial tribunal decision which could threaten the jobs of 25,000 ATO employees.

Public service unions have vowed to challenge an industrial tribunal decision which could threaten the jobs of 25,000 ATO employees. Photo: Michel O'Sullivan

Public service unions have vowed to fight against an industrial tribunal decision they say threatens the job security of 25,000 Australian Taxation Office workers nationwide.

The Fair Work Commission (FWC) has upheld the tax bosses' right to force eight junior employees in Melbourne to reapply for just four positions, with no guarantee of jobs for the losers in the process.

The Australian Services Union (ASU) says the judgment sets a precedent which the Taxation Office can use to reduce its workforce while dodging the requirements of its collective agreement.

But an ATO spokeswoman said the decision is "fair and sensible" and will allow the public service department to manage "excess staff".

According to the Taxation Office, four of the eight facilities management workers are now excess as management moves 2500 Melbourne CBD-based bureaucrats from five separate locations to one location in the city's massive Collins Square development.

The eight staff members were encouraged to apply for the reduced number of jobs or to consider asking for a voluntary redundancy.

The union took its fight against the move to the Fair Work Commission, arguing the move was in breach of the Taxation Office's obligation to find alternative work and retraining for staff deemed to be excess to requirements.

But commission vice-president Michael Lawler has found that the ATO's approach was a "practical, sensible and fair" response to a "classic redundancy situation" where the eight Melbourne staff did not have technical taxation skills needed if they were to be moved around the organisation.

The ASU's Melbourne Tax Officers Branch secretary Jeff Lapidos says the union will appeal the decision to the full bench of the Fair Work Commission, arguing the precedent gives the ATO too much power in deciding ''who will stay and who will go.''

''The ATO could decide to

reduce the numbers in any team of its choosing and then decide who will stay and who go,'' Mr Lapidos said.

''Those who lose out in the reverse order of merit will then have to try to find another position after losing at the reverse order of merit.

''All teams have their least valuable player,'' he said.

''If someone has to go as a result of a reduction in team size, we generally know who it will be before the reverse order of merit process is even commenced - whoever is not favoured by the management.''

A spokeswoman for the ATO denied that the decision undermined job security in the organisation.''

''The ATO Fair Work Commission decision does not undermine job security - it provides a fair and sensible framework that allows the ATO to manage a situation where there is excess staff so that no staff member is disadvantaged,'' the spokeswoman said.

''Our processes have been found to be fair and reasonable by the Fair Work Commission.''

13 comments

  • The idea of forced job cuts because of, in the words of the ATO spokeswoman, "excess staff" is simply untrue. This is a political decision from above and nothing to to with resource management. They might call it "efficiency dividends" or some other claptrap but the reality is ALL government job cuts are fuelled by the need to save money because Swan and Gillard have blown the economy to bits.

    Commenter
    yumq
    Location
    Reid
    Date and time
    April 29, 2013, 9:34AM
    • You are absolutely correct

      Commenter
      Irene
      Date and time
      April 29, 2013, 9:53AM
    • Well, they say they have run the economy on advice from experts?
      Some of those "experts" would work for the tax office, would they not?
      "efficiency dividends" don't forget what goes around comes around!

      Commenter
      I know nussink
      Date and time
      April 29, 2013, 10:15AM
    • Maybe so, but the advisors are not the one's losing their jobs, it is the innocent at the bottom with kids and mortgages that are out of work. So much for Labor values

      Commenter
      Irene
      Date and time
      April 29, 2013, 10:31AM
    • If those closest to them are not in a position to make them accountable, then who is?

      Commenter
      I know nussink
      Date and time
      April 29, 2013, 11:14AM
  • Same as at DIICCSRTE. Over 140 people tapped on the shoulder for 'VRs' in the last fortnight. Add to that 160 positions at Broadband, the disbandanment of Climate Change, over 100 positions gone from Finance and CSIRO respectively and conservatively, you are looking at 600 positions gone from the APS in Canberra in the last month. Gillard is doing Abbott's job for him but at least Abbott is up front about the cuts. A pox on this government.

    Commenter
    BBA
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    April 29, 2013, 10:06AM
    • FYI. VR = voluntary redundancy. Key word is VOLUNTARY. You're not 'tapped' on the shoulder for a VR. People take a VR because they want to. Don't want to take the cash then don't accept an offer.

      Despite that. don't forget the 200 VR's at DSEWPaC by 1 July.

      This will be standard APS for a few years to come.

      Commenter
      smith33
      Location
      CBR
      Date and time
      April 30, 2013, 10:54AM
  • Hmmm, how does this affect graduates applying for the ATO I wonder? Or any APS graduate position for that matter.

    Commenter
    BJ
    Date and time
    April 29, 2013, 10:45AM
    • Ten years ago the ATO was a great place to work. We were just coming out of Tax reform and still bedding down a lot of systems and initiatives.

      Now, the ATO is full of incompetent, power crazy wannabes who spend their entire days focusing on statistics and how to justify their existence to those above them.

      The only core skill most EL1s and above have these days is the ability to write responses to ATO selection criteria - making the place a living, breathing example of the Peter Principle - incompetent staff floundering at levels far beyond their capacity.

      Commenter
      Bill
      Date and time
      April 29, 2013, 11:14AM
      • Oh Bill how true. You should have got the commissioners job. What you say is exactly the way it is.

        Commenter
        Wise One
        Location
        Australia
        Date and time
        April 29, 2013, 12:50PM

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