National

Agriculture Department to try try again with vote on new pay deal

The Agriculture Department will try to show on Tuesday that persistence pays, asking its workforce to vote for a new pay deal at the third time of asking.

The department's 4600 eligible employees will begin to cast ballots on Monday morning with bosses urging them to accept a front-loaded pay deal worth 6 per cent over three years, with 3 per cent to be paid upĀ front.

Unions describe the wage deal as "paltry" and have depicted the proposed EA as an attack on workers' rights at the department.

There is also continued unhappiness among the department's veterinarians, whose task is to protect Australia from serious animal diseases and who face a whole new pay structure and from quarantine workers at airports who will be hit with the loss of payments.

The last vote, held in December, fell agonising close with just 62 votes the difference between a yes and no vote and the department's management are hoping a larger turnout over the coming days will get their proposal over the line.

But unions have kept up the pressure for a no vote with the CPSU campaigning hard and telling Agriculture public servants that under the new proposal, entry-level vets would be paid tens of thousands of dollars less, mothers would lose the right to lactation breaks and hundreds of airport staff are likely to lose pay.

"The Department has focused on pay, moving more of the paltry pay rises to the front of the agreement (just a week after claiming that they were unable to)," the latest union bulletin said.

"It's still a bad pay offer that represents less than 1.3 per cent per annum when delays are factored in, but this is not just about money

"Most of the Department's proposed cuts save no money, so retaining them also costs nothing.

"Attacks on job security, consultation, representation rights, half-pay carer's leave, etc, only impose a cost on the dignity of the department's employees."

The department said on Friday that there were key differences between the new proposal and the one rejected in December.

A spokesperson said the pay deal would now be front-loaded so it paid 3 per cent on commencement with another 2 per cent 12 months later and 1 per cent more in year three.

The department added that it had now confirmed its commitment to communicate and consult with workers when "when implementing and applying the agreement" and flexible working arrangements "to assist balancing personal and work commitments".

Assistant secretary of the department's Biosecurity Animal Division Tim Chapman has also hit out at criticism of the new veterinary structure which will see the vets' workforce split in two and a new pay scale with entry level vets paid $21,000 less than they are at present

"The department is proposing a veterinarian structure which will support a better career path for our vets, as well as better prospects for promotion," Mr Chapman said.

"This includes a specific veterinary position for recently graduated or inexperienced vets which is not currently available.

"Vets at this level will be paid more than $20,000 above the national average for recently qualified vets."

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