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CPSU wants a word with Senator Abetz about bargaining process

Date

Noel Towell and Phillip Thomson

Senator Eric Abetz.

Senator Eric Abetz.

The nation's biggest public service union is trying to force Employment Minister Eric Abetz and other federal government figures to the negotiating table. 

The Community and Public Sector Union has written to Senator Abetz, saying it might want to question him about the bargaining process at the Department of Industry during the course of negotiations. 

The CPSU is worried that important decisions on workplace agreements may be made by government representatives outside of the enterprise bargaining room.

Senator Abetz has the ultimate authority for the government to sign off on agreements. In March, he issued the government's strict bargaining framework guiding the direction of talks.

The union also wants to establish more communications with other senior government and public service figures, including Australian Public Service Commissioner Stephen Sedgwick and Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane. 

The bargaining policy puts tight restrictions on public service pay rises and requires the Public Service Commissioner, along with the Department of Finance Secretary and each relevant agency head, as well as Senator Abetz, to sign off on any deals.

CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood said the framework allowed issues negotiated and agreed in the bargaining room to be overturned by people outside the room. 

"This isn't genuine bargaining and will lead to confusion, delays and frustration," she said. 

Meantime, the union has accused Senator Abetz of "crying crocodile tears" over job losses in the federal bureaucracy.

The CPSU responded on Monday to Senator Abetz's comments that bureaucrats might forgo pay rises to save their mates' jobs and criticising the role of unions in the enterprise bargaining talks covering 160,000 federal public servants.

CPSU deputy president Alistair Waters said the minister's position lacked credibility.

''Not only is this government steaming ahead with 16,500 job cuts, they are using negotiations on new agreements to remove job security protections and make it easier for agencies to get rid of staff," he said.

''If he was really concerned about job security, Mr Abetz would be making sure agencies minimised the use of involuntary redundancies and maximised their efforts to find alternative employment for excess staff."

Senator Abetz also pushed his view that more Public Service functions should be moved away from Canberra, questioning why "everything should be in Canberra''.

But Mr Waters said relocation to the regions was not the biggest issue facing the service. ''The biggest problem ... is not where it is located but how it is going to deliver policy and services with 16,500 fewer employees.

"Every day scores of talented and experienced staff are leaving and are not being replaced. That is the real issue."

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