National

Defeat predicted for government in Employment Dept

The Abbott government's public service wage policy is on the eve of a crushing defeat by workers in public service minister Eric Abetz's own department, union polling shows.

Public service minister Eric Abetz.
Public service minister Eric Abetz. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

More than 1800 bureaucrats will start voting on Wednesday on whether to accept a wage increase of less than 0.5 per cent a year, which comes with cuts to conditions and entitlements.

A survey by the Community and Public Sector Union suggest the ballot is a forgone conclusion, with 96 per cent saying they will reject the deal.

The poll of 573 public servants at Employment, about a third of the department's workforce, included union members and non-members, bolstering the confidence of the CPSU that the hardline wage policy being enforced across the Commonwealth was set for another rejection.

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The union's survey was conducted when there were two wage proposals and the no voters said they would reject both potential wage deals.

The department's workers will have five days to vote on a three-year-proposal of pay rises of 0.5 per cent in years one and two and 0.4 per cent in year three.

But it comes with the loss of a half-day closedown on the afternoon of the working day before Christmas, the removal of a health allowance, increased working hours from 37.5 hours to 38 hours a week and the loss of 46 jobs by natural attrition over three years, unless alternative savings can be found.

Workers at the giant Department of Human Services have already voted to strike after being offered a .75 per cent a year increase and bureaucrats at Veterans Affairs voted overwhelmingly for industrial action after their bosses failed to come up with an offer.

Employment Department secretary Renee Leon declined to be interviewed on Tuesday and a spokesman said the department would not speculate on the likely outcome of the vote and stopped short of encouraging workers to vote yes on the deal.

"It would be inappropriate for the department to comment on the outcome of the impending ballot," the spokesman said.

"The department is encouraging workers to consider and vote on a proposed three-year enterprise agreement.

"It is encouraging employees to vote to make sure their views are represented, though employees will decide for themselves which way they wish to vote."

The department would simply try again if its proposal was defeated, he said.

"If the majority of employees vote against the proposed enterprise agreement, the department will look at the areas of concern and work with bargaining representatives to recommence bargaining."

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