National

Hope at last for second-class public servants left behind by machinery of government

There is hope at last for equal treatment for hundreds of Canberra public servants who have been forced to work for thousands of dollars less than their colleagues, despite doing the same jobs.

More than 700 Education Department staffers have found themselves among the biggest losers in the "machinery of government (MoG)" upheavals that have gripped the public service in recent years.

After being moved between departments twice since 2012 because of government decisions, some of them are now earning $15,000 less than other Education Department public servants who are supposed to be on the same classification.

Many of the affected group, who work on tertiary education and skills training programs, were in Education (then known as DEEWR) until they MoGed out to the Industry Department in 2012.

After the Coalition's election in 2013, the tertiary and skills specialists were then shunted back into Education but remained on the Industry enterprise agreement and, crucially, its pay scales.

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The result is annual pay gaps within the Education Department of between $3000 and $6000 at most paypoints and up to $15000 at the middle-management EL2 level.

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Worse, according to public sector union, the former Industry group have been left with fewer opportunities than their Education colleagues to progress up the pay grades because the two workplace agreements operate differently.

But a glimmer of hope appeared this week with the long-awaited arrival of a draft of proposed new agreement, to replace the one that expired in mid-2014, for the Education Department which will put all of its staff one the same deal.

But there are plenty of catches, according to the CPSU, with all of the department's public servants asked to trade away entitlements including personal leave provisions, flex arrangements and workload reviews.

The efforts to bring all staff onto an equal footing will result in most Employment workers getting a pay rise of 5.5 per cent over three years, less than the 6 per cent on offer nearly everywhere else in the public service, the union says.

The CPSU says it will stick with the approach it has taken in other departments and campaign for a no-vote when the offer is put to an all-staff ballot.

The department refused to provide a copy of the proposed agreement or to answer questions on the fate of the former Industry staffers.

But CPSU Deputy Secretary Beth Vincent-Pietsch said the inclusion of uniform pay rates in the draft agreement was a victory after the department saved millions of dollars from paying some workers less than others since 2013.

"We've been fighting for years to get the Department of Education and Training to treat these hundreds of workers fairly and pay them the same as their colleagues," the union official said.

"The department has long insisted it doesn't have the power to fix this situation, while saving millions of dollars by short-changing these workers, so finally tabling a whole of Department offer is long overdue.

"Unfortunately this still doesn't address some of the other fundamental problems with the proposed agreement, which is seeking to strip important rights and conditions in line with the government's hard-line public sector bargaining policy.

"For a majority of staff pay rises will be less than the government-imposed cap.

"For a range of reasons we believe all staff in the department will be better off if they reject this offer and keep fighting for a better deal."

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