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Communications staff told to reapply for their public service jobs

Drew Clarke.

Drew Clarke.

The government says Labor is to blame for the staff of an entire Commonwealth department being forced to apply for their own jobs, with 25 per cent set to be rejected.

More than 550 public servants at the federal Communications Department will have to compete against workmates in the coming months as they fight for about 425 jobs in a radically restructured department.

But the department says ''fill and spill'' was the fairest way to manage the reduction in jobs at Communications after a voluntary redundancy program held last year.

The move is an escalation of the government's tough public service cost-cutting campaign and could have repercussions across the 165,000-strong bureaucracy which was promised before last year's election that any job losses would be achieved through natural attrition. The news was broken to shocked workers on Friday morning. The process, aimed at cutting 125 jobs, marks a move away from the voluntary redundancies used so far to achieve the government's cull of public service jobs and has been condemned by the public sector union as cruel, vindictive unprecedented, disruptive and divisive.

Departmental secretary Drew Clarke, who will not have to apply for his own job, declined to be interviewed but said through a spokeswoman that staff had been kept updated while the move was being planned over several months.

''The department considers the process currently under way to be a fair and equitable way of managing a redesign and reduction of this scale,'' the spokeswoman said.

''The secretary first addressed all staff in September last year about the need to address a range of priority areas, one of which was our structure. He has communicated regularly with staff throughout the following months as part of a comprehensive process to identify our strategic priorities and inform our new Corporate Plan.''

Communications' workers were given a 17-page document on Friday morning describing the department's new structure and advising rejected job applicants would have three options: apply for a lower-grade job, accept redundancy or redeployment.

A spokesman for Public Service Minister Eric Abetz said the latest cuts were the responsibility of the previous Labor government.

''The reduction in funding is predominately the result of terminating programs from previous budgets,'' the spokesman said. ''It is expected that the reduction in staffing will occur through a combination of natural attrition, retirement, redeployment and, as a last resort, voluntary and involuntary redundancies.''

The department's main union, the Community and Public Sector Union, said it was shocked at the brutality of the move, with deputy national president Alistair Waters saying the tactics were unprecedented. ''This is a disruptive, costly and deeply divisive process,'' he said.

''All it will do is pit colleague against colleague and throw the department into a tailspin.

''Waking up and finding out that your department is cutting jobs is bad enough but then to be told you will have to fight your workmates to hang on to a job is worse.''

Do you know more? Send your confidential tips to ps@canberratimes.com.au

 

71 comments so far

  • Strike or go slow maybe in order, maybe a lot of retirements from people on CSS.

    Commenter
    PS
    Date and time
    February 28, 2014, 12:42PM
    • From memory when this has happened in the past on lesser scales, they advertise and re-recruit the higher level positions first and filter down. If Drew Clarke doesn't get his job and the new boss has more empathy, they could cancel the spill and fill and the only person affected would be Drew?

      Commenter
      ekib
      Date and time
      February 28, 2014, 3:13PM
    • ekib there is no chance of that given what was stated in the article:

      "Departmental secretary Drew Clarke, who will not have to apply for his own job, declined to be interviewed"

      Commenter
      Don Quixote
      Date and time
      March 01, 2014, 9:53AM
  • If the individuals in question who do not successfully get selected for their own jobs get a redundancy payment anyway (as it clearly says), then I really do not see how this is a cost saver?

    The real impetus, I would think, is for the SES to cherry pick who gets to stay.

    This whole rush to move away from redundancies is bound to fail due the redundancy provisions being clearly outlined in contracts, and the national employment standards.

    A court would uphold the redundancy provisions, surely.

    Commenter
    Humble EL1
    Date and time
    February 28, 2014, 12:45PM
    • Unfortunately, unless the Dept has also spilled ALL the SES jobs, then sadly it will just reinforce the Dept's successful nepotism and sycophantism culture. Feel for the staff who do a good job without adhering to this culture.

      Commenter
      Been there
      Location
      ACT
      Date and time
      February 28, 2014, 2:52PM
  • General strike! All out! Shut this dysfunctional government down until we have the opportunity to correct the mistaken result of the last election and kick this mob out before they thoroughly wreck the joint. Australia cannot afford an Abbott-led recession.

    Commenter
    Max Gross
    Location
    Sapphire Coast
    Date and time
    February 28, 2014, 12:46PM
    • I would think the Department of Communication could go on strike for quite a whole before it would impact on the country...

      Commenter
      Arthur Box
      Date and time
      February 28, 2014, 5:41PM
    • Would anyone notice if they went on strike for a week or two ????

      Commenter
      The Village Idiot (Reformed)
      Date and time
      February 28, 2014, 5:47PM
    • Max

      Julia/Kevin ere going to do the same thing. They already had solid plans to decimate the APS long before the last election (it is specified in their own budget). Why pick on the Coalition? If anything, we should be asking how 6 years of Labor led to it being this way.

      Commenter
      John
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      February 28, 2014, 6:30PM
    • All these job cuts are part of the 12,000 PS jobs from the Gillard/Rudd budget of 2013/14 under which the Australian government is still working..

      As usual Gillard/Rudd planned the job losses but failed to fund their redundancies.

      Just like Rudd set up the PNG solutions but without the $1.2 billion to run it.

      Commenter
      Andie
      Date and time
      March 01, 2014, 1:26AM

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