Flexitime under threat for ATO middle managers

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Thousands of middle managers in the Australian Taxation Office face the loss of their flexitime arrangements and instead will work unpaid extra hours as the ATO continues to crack down on workers' conditions.

The Tax Office management wants its executive level 1 public servants to lose the right to refuse to work overtime, unions say, and to be on the same arrangement as better paid bureaucrats further up the hierarchy who are not allowed to recoup extra hours worked.

The new arrangement, proposed as part of enterprise bargaining talks, means EL1 staff will not be able to take time off to compensate for extra hours spent at their desk.

Unions are furious, saying the move is another assault on the working conditions of a key group of ATO public servants.

However, the agency says a single set of overtime rules for all its executive levels is appropriate.


Executive level 1 staff have been hit hard by the wave of thousands of redundancies sweeping the ATO, with their numbers falling from more than 4300 in June 2013 to probably fewer than 3700 after departures at the end of October.

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 The Australian Services Union reacted with dismay to the proposal, telling its members in a bulletin that the move would result in more hours being worked for free.

"This means EL1s' managers will continue to heap additional work on each EL1 so they have to work many additional hours every week," ASU official Jeff Lapidos wrote in his bulletin.

"How many hours each week? As many as possible, as long your new working week does not become 'unreasonable'?"

The proposal is the latest in a series of "productivity gains" put forward by the ATO as the agency grapples to conform with the government's tough public service bargaining policies.

"We need to support each other to ensure we achieve a fair and reasonable outcome from enterprise bargaining," Mr Lapidos wrote.

"The ATO is pretending this is what they are offering. They are not.

"Commissioner [of Taxation Chris] Jordan is taking the same approach to a whole range of benefits we have built up over many years for ATO employees generally.

"The ATO advised the unions this week that it wants to take away even more benefits from ATO employment." 

However, an ATO spokeswoman said the Tax Office  wanted to have the same arrangements for all its executive level workers.

"We are seeking to have a single set of flexible working arrangements in place for all executive level employees; that is, EL1 arrangements will change to be the same as what we currently have in place for EL2s," she said.

"We believe all ELs have an important leadership role in assisting the ATO to meet its business outcomes.

"A single set of provisions will better reflect the greater flexibility and responsibility that we have of EL employees in the ATO.

"In practical terms, this means EL1s will not be able to take time off, for additional time worked, on an hour-for-hour basis."