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Department of Human Services wants to rip $250 million from its staff bill, union claims

Public servants at the federal government’s largest department are being asked to “consider” giving up $250 million in extra work, scheduled pay rises and annual leave.

Bosses at the giant Department of Human Services (DHS) have also flagged that another 500 jobs are set to be lost, according to union claims, as DHS looks for productivity savings to satisfy the hardline public sector industrial policies of the Abbott government.

DHS and 116 other government departments and agencies are in talks with their 160,000 public servants over a new enterprise bargaining deal, but the government has banned any pay-rise offers unless “productivity gains” can be demonstrated.

Human Services, which runs Centrelink, Medicare and the Child Support Agency, has not yet put a wage offer to its 35,000 workers but in a circular sent to staff, senior managers have canvassed “options” that might persuade their political bosses to allow a pay rise offer.

DHS chief financial officer Emily Canning said the 8000 department workers in line for an incremental pay rise of up to 2.75 per cent might give up their wage increases so the estimated $62 million in savings might be shared among the whole department.

“An option we could potentially look at is changing the way salaries are increased, so that any productivity for the $62 million could be shared among all staff,” Ms Canning wrote.

“This means if a new agreement is in place before September 1, 2014, the $62 million could be included within the agreement-making process as a measurable savings to put towards a pay increase for all staff."

The department’s manager in charge of the enterprise bargaining talks, Jo Talbot, suggested in the circular DHS workers putting in an extra six minutes-a-day at their desk might deliver a productivity gain of $104 million over three years.

“One of the productivity ideas was to increase employees’ working hours to 38 hours per week from 37 hours 30 minutes – a six-minute daily increase,” Ms Talbot said.

“This would make our weekly hours consistent with Australia’s National Employment Standards.

“Indeed most working Australians work a 38-hour week.”

DHS says “indicative costings” on savings delivered by reducing the accrual of annual leave, show $90 million would be saved through a reduction of three days holidays each year per employee.

“Please keep in mind these options are ones that have been raised by bargaining representatives,” Ms Talbot wrote.

CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood accused the Abbott government of “taking aim” at workers' rights in the public service.

“We are not surprised this government is attacking pay in this way because it’s taking aim at almost every aspect of these workers’ rights, pay and conditions,” the union official said.

“This government wants to make it easier to sack its workers, reduce their leave, make them work longer for less pay and now it wants to stop any career advancement.

“What’s next?”

But Public Service Minister Eric Abetz said the union was trying to frighten public servants into joining the union.

“This circular from the CPSU is all about trying to scare public servants into joining the union as highlighted in the second paragraph,” Senator Abetz said.

“The government’s Workplace Bargaining Policy provides that any remuneration increase must be offset by genuine productivity gains, in line with the community’s expectations when it comes to spending taxpayer’s money.”

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

27 comments

  • We've joined the downwards spiral to join the lowest common denominator in third world countries as far as every quality related aspect of Australian life is concerned. Let's go the whole hog and remove all of the services normally provided by government services. Private companies are always much more efficient at screwing the poor.

    Commenter
    adam
    Location
    yarrawonga
    Date and time
    July 21, 2014, 12:53PM
    • "Public servants at the federal government’s largest department are being asked to “consider” giving up $250 million in extra work, scheduled pay rises and annual leave...."

      If it's left up to the union, they would 'consider' it a better outcome if all the people lost their jobs rather than give up one 'benefit' or 'entitlement'. Why does the bloated public service always consider themselves so precious when it comes to rationalising the work force or improving productivity? We all have to deal with it in the private sector, but the unions & the public service, think that they're beyond any changes. Eat it up folks - the world changes, the times change & we have to change with it. Even if we feed on the taxpayers teat, some concessions might be worthwhile in order to have a job in the future.

      Commenter
      craig
      Date and time
      July 21, 2014, 1:30PM
    • Are we talking about the same public service, craig? You claim it's "bloated", this is based on what exactly, the current governments very trustworthy word? Currently, if you apply for a centrelink benifit such as student assistance (Like I just have), it takes 5 weeks for someone to read the application. It takes an hour to talk to someone on the phone, and if you go to an actual centrelink office they tell you to sit down and ring someone at the head office and wait on hold for an hour or they tell you to go home and use the internet because they are so overworked. Maybe our definitions of bloated are different.

      Commenter
      Ronald
      Date and time
      July 21, 2014, 1:53PM
    • @Adam...so the obstructionist Senate keeps blocking bills,even Labor earmarked $40 Billion in savings before the election and are now blocking it for vindictive reasons, the Government has to find savings that may hurt even more. It is simple arithmetic you cannot spent more than you earn, Labor and Greens are sending Australia on a path to economic disaster.
      $1 Billion in interest every month, can you begin to grasp what can be achieved with that money if Labor had not placed us in this position?

      Commenter
      Observer
      Date and time
      July 21, 2014, 2:15PM
    • @Ronald - unlike me, you obviously don't have any family or friends who work in the public service, otherwise you'd be aware of the huge 'bloat' in the public service bureaucracy. They could get rid of many of the jobs if they could improve the way they currently operate and you wouldn't even notice a difference.

      Commenter
      craig
      Date and time
      July 21, 2014, 3:24PM
    • I have to agree with Craig on this one... As a former public servant, and knowing plenty of people in the public service, I can attest to the fact that you could get rid of 25% of the staff in some agencies and not notice the difference - as long as they were the poorest performing 25%, which unfortunately will never happen. There are plenty of public servants on $100K or more doing surprisingly menial work and working surprisingly short hours, particularly when you account for the coffee culture and long lunch breaks!

      Commenter
      just remove the dead wood and let the new growth flourish...
      Date and time
      July 21, 2014, 4:44PM
  • I find it interesting whenever Sen Abetz or an LNP spin Doctor talk about the APS their play book is either it is a Union scare campaign to get members, Community expectation, or the spending of taxpayers money.

    OK Sen lets look at your playbook.
    Its a scare campaign to drive union membership. Well the cuts you are proposing are to put it bluntly obscene. While the Murdoch media and the LNP have demonised the APS, it is internationally one of the most efficient and productive in the world. Sorry Sen, but the APS IS NOT A PRIVATE FOR PROFIT COMPANY. It is there to serve the people and to deliver the programs that your government deems that they want to deliver and how your government wants them delivered. The APS is also highly educated across the board. That is why they get paid what they do, and they are not Union pawns. If they are joining a union, have a close look at yourself and your policies!
    Community Expectations: When politician’s salary and perks are measured against community expectations then you can do it to the APS.
    And the bit about spending taxpayers money, what about the WA pollie who flew to cairns to buy an investment property, what about the taxpayers paying for LNP pollies to go to weddings across Australia and overseas! When all of the pollies get their collective snouts out of the taxpayer trough and have to show REAL productivity offsets then you can start to expect others.
    Remember Senator, Leadership starts at the top and sacrifices can only happen when those at the top sacrifice more than those below. George Orwell once said all animals are equal but some are more equal. Maybe Sen Abetz might care to reflect.

    Commenter
    The Grim Reaper
    Location
    Canberrra
    Date and time
    July 21, 2014, 1:20PM
    • And don't forget Ms Talbot that former CSA employees already gave up 9 minutes in the Centrelink takeover only a couple of years ago. Add another 6 minutes and that is 1.25 hours per week, 60 hours per year which equates 8.25 days that CSA are supposed to give up. The first increase in hours was not compensated for. Doesn't sound much until you do the maths. If we are talking about payrises then can the workers ask how much the secretary has received in the past twelve months? DHS is a very toxic place too work unless you are Centrelink born and bred.

      Commenter
      Glad I left
      Location
      Anywhere but DHS
      Date and time
      July 21, 2014, 1:33PM
      • Damn, they would hate my job in the private sector where I have to work as many minutes or hours as the job requires. I even work evenings, weekends, unpaid overtime and at times on my holidays because that's what it takes to get the job done. But the precious petunias in the unionised work force think a few concessions are just beyond them....?

        Commenter
        craig
        Date and time
        July 21, 2014, 3:27PM
    • 6 minutes of lost time to achieved better customer service and the Unions are crying foul, what a joke

      Commenter
      Abloke
      Location
      Perth
      Date and time
      July 21, 2014, 1:55PM

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