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DHS workers offered 1.15 per cent – at most

Date

Noel Towell

Public service news: full coverage

The federal government has offered tens of thousands of public servants at its biggest department a pay deal that is nearly 2 per cent below inflation.

And the Department of Human Services says the offer will be slashed to just 0.75 per cent per year if its 30,000 bureaucrats do not sign the deal within five weeks.

DHS, which includes frontline agencies Centrelink, Medicare and the Child Support Agency, is the first major department to make pay offer under the Abbott government's hardline policy on public sector wages and conditions.

The offer is a guaranteed pay rise of 2.3 per cent over three years, topped up with another 1.25 per cent if the deal is struck before  September 1 and the DHS manages to improve its management-to-worker ratio.

The official inflation rate was adjusted on Wednesday to 3 per cent per annum and under the DHS's offer, the most its staff could hope for is 1.18 per cent.

But it would come with strings, with workers expected to trade away up to $250 million in incremental pay increases, accrued annual leave, extra working hours and other cuts to conditions.

Departmental managers also want changes to the rules around flexible working arrangements for its workers, many of whom work outside regular hours in agency call centres.

Unions say the offer is “ugly” but DHS says it has made the best offer it can afford.

The scale of Human Services, its national reach and relatively high union membership set the scene for a bitter industrial struggle with the department’s bosses keen to put their proposal to an all-staff ballot as early as next week.

The CPSU has ramped up its recruiting efforts at DHS in recent weeks in anticipation of trouble and will seek to frame the pay offer as “full frontal attack” on tens of thousands of ordinary workers by the federal government.

The low offer will also be portrayed as a sign of things to come across the APS as public servants in 116 other agencies and departments negotiate pay and conditions.

The union believes it will be fighting on favourable ground with the giant department’s workers more likely to be female, to work part-time and to be paid less than the public service average.

More than 70 per cent of DHS public servants are women, 21,000 of them earn between $57,000 and $69,000 a year and only 3 per cent of that group live in Canberra.

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood says the DHS workforce is the opposite to the popular stereotype of well-paid Canberra public servants.

“Despite the government’s line on public servants being fat cats, the average Human Services worker is a mum who works in a suburban call centre or customer service centre and earns average wages,” Ms Flood said on Monday.

“This agreement is one of the ugliest we’ve ever seen.

“The Department of Human Services’ proposition asks workers to cop cuts to their rights, increases in their working hours and reductions in their wages. It’s a nasty proposition and staff hate it.”

But Human Services general manager Hank Jongen said his department had put together the best offer it could afford, arguing that each 1 per cent pay rise would cost the budget $181 million.

“We have explored every possible option in developing the new agreement and have invited input from all bargaining representatives, including the CPSU,” Mr Jongen said.

“The department has developed what it believes is the best offer possible and remains committed to putting the agreement to the vote as soon as possible.”

40 comments so far

  • At our local centrelink they are trialling new customer service reps they are robotic and are based on Digitally Abolish Legal Entitlements Knowledge System or Dalek for short.

    Commenter
    stoney
    Date and time
    July 24, 2014, 7:24AM
    • I would say stick it this Goverment has a lot to answer for. Good bye LNP never again but Labour are just as bad. Time to rethink our system of Goverment.

      Commenter
      Wayne
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      July 24, 2014, 7:24AM
      • This is total bullsh%t. The bosses sit there fat and happy with their 50% or so payrises and the rank and file get a rise not only lower than inflation but with huge strings attached???? A pay rise lower than inflation is not a pay rise at all, it is actually a pay cut. It is not fair for politicians and department secretaries to sit there and demand so much of public servants whilst having their own snouts so deep in the trough they are almost drowning.

        Commenter
        TuffGuy
        Location
        Canberra
        Date and time
        July 24, 2014, 7:58AM
        • It is still better than no increase at all.

          I have been on the same rate for a few years now. so even less than inflation would have me better off.

          Commenter
          d d
          Date and time
          July 24, 2014, 9:23AM
        • This department has a track record of dragging the chain with negotiations, then submitting an inferior offer at the last gasp.
          Many years ago staff rejected a particularly poor offer, and missed out on a payrise for a particular year altogether, which has compounded itself ever since into a larger loss each year. The system is rigged for the employer to screw their staff. It is no longer a negotiation or an agreement, but a take-it-or-leave-it scenario, an unproductive and ultimately morale-destroying approach.

          Commenter
          Truthy
          Date and time
          July 24, 2014, 10:16AM
      • Sorry to tell the unions this but $57,000 is slightly above average wage and a good 10 grand above the mean, ie what 50% of Australian's earn.

        Commenter
        Jane2
        Date and time
        July 24, 2014, 8:33AM
        • Jane2 - Your figures are based on full-time and part-time wage earners. For full-timers the average is around $72,000 and the median is around $56,000 (based on Tax Office data from 2011 so it's probably higher now). So to make a proper comparison would require splitting the DHS employees into full-time and part-time.

          In any case, how can you possibly infer anything about appropriate pay levels simply by pointing to average and median wages for all wage earners. Are you saying we should all be paid the median regardless of what we do? Or would you just apply that principle to everyone else?

          Commenter
          Sources
          Date and time
          July 24, 2014, 9:44AM
        • Well, I work (quite hard) for DHS for a miserly $48K per year and was one of thousands bent over and royally reamed in the last agreement by the reduction in conditions and a extremely poor pay offer and blocked from moving to the next level by barriers put in place.

          This disgraceful "offer" has to be challenged by every right thinking person in DHS. That clearly excludes the SES and EL's who have their heads right up their rear ends.

          This will be voted down. There is no way on Earth that Fair Work Australia would ever pass this anyway.

          This is politically driven bastardry of the highest level.

          Commenter
          Hairy
          Date and time
          July 24, 2014, 8:01PM
        • There is a few thousand of us who earn far less. Most people in the are I work ear between $48, 000 and $53, 000 per year.

          Commenter
          Hairy
          Date and time
          July 24, 2014, 8:03PM
      • What more do you expect, when it comes to ministers pay rises, there is no opposition, no one to say hey that is a bit obscene and over the top, but those who are under them it is a different matter, you are all learners, you have to lift more for less. The government forgets, they are not a private business and neither are the portfolios they are in charge of, and yet this is exactly how they treat looking after the country obsessed with budget surpluses, at the exspence of services to those who inject the money in the first place. But hey all is fine as long as they continue getting their pay rises and continually abuse the perks and allowances that go with office, why is it that liberal members cost the public more, when in office or in opposition.

        Commenter
        Lost2
        Date and time
        July 24, 2014, 8:36AM

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