Australian Taxation Office wants workers with 'the right stuff'

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Australia's 21,000 tax officials have been told they must have the right stuff if they want to keep working at the ATO.

The nation's top tax man says his public servants are sick of working alongside underperformers as he tries to introduce a "new culture" to his 105-year-old agency.

But Taxation Commissioner Chris Jordan is facing a groundswell of anger from his troops, most of whom are being asked to a accept pay rises of less than $7 a week in return for an extra 45 minutes' work and the loss many rights, conditions and another 300 jobs.

With unions already campaigning for a "no" vote when the long-awaited pay offer goes to a workplace ballot, Mr Jordan unveiled the "levers" on Friday that he hopes will bring the Tax Office's "new culture to life."

"Through the levers we will create a new 'way of doing things around here to succeed'," workers were told.


Two of the key planks of Mr Jordan's move will be "having the right people" and "rewards and consequences".

"ATO staff are frustrated by the tolerance for poor performance," the document states.

"Clearly defining what is expected of each person and tying real consequences to performance will serve to motivate people and encourage a high-performing organisation."

The taxation hierarchy also believes the agency is too bureaucratic and risk averse and wants changes to internal processes to enable its cultural agenda to proceed.

"The current rigidity of the ATO's internal processes reinforces the bureaucratic and risk adverse (sic) current culture and any effort to change the culture will be hampered if this element is not addressed," the document states.

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All the changes are to be driven by strong and inspiring bosses, according to the bulletin with "leadership and accountability," to be another key cultural lever.

"Strong, inspiring leaders who operate as a unified cohort, and model and drive the future culture," the document says.

The push for cultural change risks opening up another front in the looming industrial struggle at the Tax Office, with reports emerging of "a lot of unhappy people" at key sites throughout the country in the wake of Tuesday's pay offer.

One ATO union immediately moved on Friday to link Mr Jordan's announcement with the wage talks, with the Australian Service Union accusing the commissioner of unleashing a "culture war" on his staff.

The larger Community and Public Sector Union has launched a recruitment drive, hoping to capitalise on the resentment among a workforce that is coping with thousands of job cuts and has not had a pay rise since June 2013.

The ASU's vocal taxation organiser Jeff Lapidos told his members that Mr Jordan's cultural push was about stripping the ATO's workers of their rights and he urged tax officials to "hamper" the cultural agenda with a "no" vote in any enterprise bargaining poll.

The CPSU is looking to swell the ranks of its members by channelling discontent with the pay offer, telling Tax Office staffers that union membership is the best way to win any improvement on the "macabre offer."

"When you consider that this pay offer requires 300 more colleagues to lose their jobs, it's beginning to look macabre, to say the least," the union's national president Alistair Waters told tax officials.