Tens of thousands of public servants at the giant Department of Human Services could get their long-awaited pay offer as early as next week, according to union reports.
The department has told union negotiators it is close to securing approval from the Australian Public Service workplace authority to finally put a new proposal to its 35,000 workers. It expected to make an offer in early February.
The Community and Public Sector Union, confident it can prevail in a fresh industrial showdown in the department where its membership is strongest, is pressuring DHS management for an offer that can be put to an early ballot of the workforce.
The department's plans for a snap ballot on a three-year deal of about 1.2 per cent a year collapsed in July in the face of fierce union opposition, with the two sides trading accusations of bad faith bargaining.
The offer was a conditional on about $250 million of wage increases, working hours and annual leave accrual being traded away and the CPSU has told its members this week that any new deal is likely to still contain cuts to entitlements.
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Bargaining at departments and agencies across the Commonwealth is stalled as bosses struggle to produce enterprise agreement packages tough enough to pass the government's bargaining framework, with the Australian Public Service Commission and Finance Department acting as enforcers of the rules.
But, according to a CPSU bulletin issued to members, DHS is feeling confident it can soon get its latest proposal ticked off by the commission and Finance.
"The department has now submitted a pay offer to the Public Service Commissioner for approval," the bulletin states.
"DHS told your bargaining team that they expect to be able to make a pay offer to staff in early February."
In October, union members at the department voted for a campaign of low-level industrial action aimed at forcing their bosses to the negotiating table.
The CPSU sought this week to again step up the pressure on departmnental managers, telling union members that nine months of talks on a new enterprise bargaining deal had produced nothing.
"It's important to remember that your current agreement expired almost seven months ago and negotiations have been going on for even longer," the bulletin said.
"After almost nine months of negotiations it is time the department tests the support for their proposals and put their proposed agreement to a staff vote.
"The CPSU has told DHS that we want to move as quickly as possible to a staff vote."
Human Services' General Manager Hank Jongen confirmed on Thursday that a package had been submitted approval by the Public Service Commission. "As the revised pay offer is currently being assessed by the APSC, we are not able to provide specific timeframes of when the offer may be approved," Mr Jongen said. "However, once the department receives the necessary approvals, the next step would be to table the revised pay offer in bargaining meetings for discussion."