CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood said the government’s bargaining policy directed all federal agencies to streamline agreements. Photo: David Tease
Bargaining for agreements affecting tens of thousands of public servants have kicked off and the Community and Public Sector Union has accused the government of using negotiations to make it easier to sack workers.
Talks regarding agreements for many of the 165,000 federal bureaucrats nationally are underway after the Department of Human Services (DHS) started negotiations last week and the Australian Tax Office (ATO) began bargaining on Monday.
It is understood the Department of Agriculture also started bargaining with staff this week while Defence has sent a newsletter to staff before bargaining has even begun by saying it wants to slow the progression of staff through pay grades.
Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) national secretary Nadine Flood said proposals already on the table at DHS, the Department of Agriculture and the Tax Office included the reduction in the amount of time workers had to find a new job before they were made involuntarily redundant.
She said fewer consultations with staff about major job cuts and making it harder for unions to represent employees during redundancy rounds were also being put forward in official bargaining but would not detail which departments or agencies had made the proposals.
''It’s clear the government’s attack on job security will be a flashpoint in these negotiations," Ms Flood said.
Ms Flood said the government’s bargaining policy directed all federal agencies to streamline agreements and, under the "guise of streamlining", agencies were trying to remove provisions protecting employees’ rights when jobs were cut.
The DHS had about 30,000 staff while the ATO had about 20,000, according to budget papers.
The Department of Defence was yet to start bargaining but a newsletter to staff had informed employees that it may be delayed further before negotiations began.
The Defence Enterprise Collective Agreement (DECA) agreement was arguably one of the most complex in the public service, staff were told.
The newsletter confirmed Defence wanted to slow thousands of bureaucrats moving up the pay grades and reaffirmed the federal government's hardline stance on pay.
"To be clear, if we can’t meet the productivity and affordability requirements of the bargaining policy, there won’t be a pay increase," the newsletter said.
The Defence newsletter confirmed the department wanted to increase the standard working week to 38 hours and remove paid days off at Christmas which at the moment were not counted as annual leave.
Canberra MP and shadow parliamentary secretary for defence Gai Brodtmann said the tough bargaining environment would increase pressure on the Commonwealth's public service workforce which will be reduced by 16,500.
''The Abbott government is cutting over 2,400 civilian Defence jobs over the next four years, and has increased the efficiency dividend by a further 0.25 per cent," she said.
''The Abbott government’s budget has significantly increased cost of living pressures, through the petrol tax hike, GP co-payment and increased cost of prescriptions.''
''These negotiations are between the government and employees, but it is important that wages keep up with the cost of living."