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Counselling offered to public servants after pay talks

The office of Eric Abetz would not rule out the 0 per cent position.

The office of Eric Abetz would not rule out the 0 per cent position. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Thousands of public servants were offered psychological counselling after they learned last week of the government's plans for their pay and conditions.

The Department of Veterans' Affairs offered counselling to its 2000 mostly Canberra-based staff the day after The Canberra Times revealed the hard line the Abbott government would take to this year's pay talks for the nation's 165,000 federal public servants.

The government is expected to begin with a position of 0 per cent pay rises with any upwards movement to be traded off against entitlements and conditions, such as sick and carers' leave.

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

Government staff were privately dismissive of the report but the office of Public Service Minister Eric Abetz was unprepared to publicly rule out the 0 per cent position.

The Department of Veterans' Affairs took no chances on Thursday; a senior manager sent out a bulletin advising staff who might be "feeling anxious" about the revelations of the department's employee assistance program.

In his message to workers, Veterans' Affairs human resources boss Roger Winzenberg said "local media" had "speculated" about the bargaining position. 

Mr Winzenberg urged staff to trust the public service hierarchy and take a wait-and-see approach to the pay talks.

"These reports speculate on the content of the government's Commonwealth employment bargaining framework, which has not yet been released," the human resources boss wrote.

Key elements of the government's plan for the bargaining round have been in circulation in the upper echelons of the public service for several weeks, but Mr Winzenberg said the plans were still "unknown".

"Until the framework is made public, the details remain unknown," he wrote.

"Once we have the framework and have had time to analyse the detail, we will be in a position to share information with you."

Mr Winzenberg also foreshadowed a key plank of the government's position, agency-level bargaining, where each department and agency would hold its own talks with its workforce subject to a strict set of principles dictated by the government.

"The next steps from here is that we await the release of the bargaining framework, and then the enterprise agreement team will develop our position," Mr Winzenberg wrote.

"Once we have our proposed position it will be submitted to the [Public Service Commission] and the Department of Finance for ratification before we can commence formal bargaining."

The assistant secretary assured his workers that help was at hand if they were suffering from anxiety.

"If you are feeling anxious as a result of the media reports, I encourage you to talk to your manager or utilise the services of our EAP provider, Davidson Trahaire Corpsych," he wrote.

81 comments

  • No surprises here I guess - will the Pollies lead by example ??? No doubt their remuneration is determined by different guidelines and they get an automatic adjustment . .

    Commenter
    MST
    Date and time
    February 24, 2014, 11:59AM
    • Yes you are correct. There is an independent Remuneration Tribunal which sets politician's pay. The Parliament never knocks back the recommended changes.

      Commenter
      Alasdair
      Location
      Prahran
      Date and time
      February 24, 2014, 1:18PM
    • Another attack on the worker.

      Commenter
      ray pace
      Location
      narrabeen
      Date and time
      February 24, 2014, 1:45PM
    • MST - Yes to your comment.
      Nitro Gangster - We are becoming a nanny country, give me, give me. If not I will have mental breakdown. (This may offend) but life is like that. We have to overcome and adapt.

      Commenter
      Hardarse
      Date and time
      February 24, 2014, 1:59PM
    • I can only take Abbott and Abetz seriously when they start applying the same tests to their own pay and conditions as they are still the biggest rorters of public fund to attend the weddings of political mates and sporting activities. Next time, please ask them about their plans to cut their pay and generous conditions of pay.

      Commenter
      Akari
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      February 24, 2014, 2:28PM
    • Right through the election campaign we were assured workchoices was dead and buried, seems Tony and Co have dug up the coffin and released the rotting policy of work choices mark 2, 10 times worse than workchoices under Howard, but trust the adults to keep their promises. 3 years they picked on Julia for the supposed lie they manufactured, and yet in 5 months he has broken 25 and counting, adults, schoolyard bullies better suited definition

      Commenter
      lost2
      Date and time
      February 24, 2014, 2:46PM
    • lost 2 - well I guess they don't see any lost votes in this - ACT electorates don't tend to elect LNP Members in the Lower House. Mind you the rest of the country is watching and I suspect the next election will have a different outcome - there are a lot of LNP voters whose silence re refugees is very telling.

      Commenter
      Really ?
      Date and time
      February 24, 2014, 3:53PM
  • Lord give me strength.

    Commenter
    NITRO GANGSTER
    Date and time
    February 24, 2014, 12:13PM
    • How pathetic of these PS workers, makes me wonder how they cope at home or going out to the shop. It really isn't too hard to understand why non PS worker absolutely hate this bunch of whining self absorbed sooks.

      Commenter
      zzREXzz
      Date and time
      February 24, 2014, 2:15PM
    • This counselling is provided, I'm not reading anywhere the workers demanded it Rex, if that is your real name. If the PS has it so good why don't you all just get a job there? It's that easy when people complain about the unemployed, they should just get a job. Well if you think the PS has it so good just get job there. That way you won't sound like such a princess who wants the better throne.

      Commenter
      Exe
      Date and time
      February 24, 2014, 2:38PM

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