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More elderly public servants? No thanks, we're sorted

Date

Noel Towell

A push to swell the ranks of the Australian Public Service's grey army looks set to meet resistance at the top level of the bureaucracy and among its political bosses.

The Human Rights Commission says older workers are being disproportionately hurt in redundancy drives, like the one gripping the public service, and it wants quotas and targets to ensure that the APS is doing its bit for older Australia.

But the Public Service Commissioner says the service does very well already with more than 30 per cent of permanent staff over 50 and about 11 per cent of new recruits in that age bracket.

Commissioner Stephen Sedgwick would not comment on a personal plea from Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan last week for him to consider recruitment targets.

Public Service Minister Eric Abetz was equally unenthusiastic when asked on Wednesday about his views on targets and quotas for older workers in the public service, with his office producing the same set of statistics.

Ms Ryan said last week that four out of 10 workers who lose their job in their 50s or 60s would spend at least two years on the dole, victims of a ''deeply ageist culture'' in Australia's workplaces.

The Discrimination Commissioner said workers aged 50 years and over were often targeted by redundancy programs like the one sweeping across the Commonwealth public service.

Ms Ryan said the federal government should be taking the lead on employing older Australians and she met with Mr Sedgwick in Canberra last week to push the idea of quotas or recruitment targets for departments and agencies.

But the commission's reaction was underwhelming, with a spokeswoman dismissing questions about the meeting.

''[Mr Sedgwick] does not comment on private meetings,'' she said.

Senator Abetz's office would not provide a statement from the minister but produced Public Service Commission figures showing the accelerating recruitment of older Australians by the public service.

''The percentage of APS employees aged 50 and over has increased from 14 per cent of all ongoing employees in June 1995 to 31 per cent of all ongoing employees in June 2013,'' a spokeswoman said.

''As a percentage of all ongoing engagements to the APS, those aged 50 and over has increased from 5.7 per cent in June 1995 to 11 per cent in June 2013.''

Ms Ryan's office declined a request for an interview with the commissioner.

25 comments

  • Susan Ryan's comments seem to overlook that redundancies in the Australian Public Service to date have been voluntary. People have chosen to go and the redundancy payment means they not part of that group in the 50's and 60's spending two years on the dole. It also fails to recognise that a large proportion of public servants are still members of PSS or in some cases CSS. This means they can access their superannuation entitlements at 55 and often choose to do so.

    I think Ryan's attempt to link statistics to the Australian Public Service that are totally irrelevant undermines the credibility of her argument. It is time to stop using the APS as a vehicle to implement policies that are not adopted by the broader employer community and then still expect the APS to be as efficient as commercially run business.

    Commenter
    Greg Mc
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    July 31, 2014, 9:01AM
    • You're right the public service should be run more like efficient well run private companies which means there should be forced redundancies to get rid of the deadwood.

      Commenter
      joseph b
      Date and time
      July 31, 2014, 9:39AM
    • Joseph - Redundancies are meant to be removal of positions no longer required - and not related to the person in the position. "Deadwood" needs to be performance managed - and may result in termination - quite a different circumstance.

      Commenter
      MST
      Date and time
      July 31, 2014, 10:51AM
    • GregMc, You comment that most PS redundancies to date have been voluntary. When a whole cohort of staff are "tapped on the shoulder", offered a VR, and told it they don't accept then have to find redeployment with a couple of months or be terminated without the generous VR provisions, and told there will further successive waves of redundancies over the next 18 months, wouldn't you jump while you can?

      But in the circumstances, how really "voluntary" is your choice? Think about it......

      Commenter
      Scott
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      July 31, 2014, 1:33PM
  • I have first hand experience of being over 50 and being tatgeted for redundancy by my previous employer - new MD was late 30's and wanted people of his own generation around him. Was it just a co-incidence that those who were managed out were all over 50 ? But somehow we will be expected to work until 70 ??? Where are the jobs coming from ??

    Commenter
    MST
    Date and time
    July 31, 2014, 9:08AM
    • How absolutely instructive! While this gormless Government (like the one before it) blindly pushes the retirement age higher and higher without any idea of the reality in the competitive workforce, their own overpaid and under-performing Public Service Mandarins actively push back on efforts to hire from the mature-age workforce. If your own Public Service refuses to set an example in hiring and retaining older workers, then how the hell are you going to get the private sector to take this group on? It just demonstrates the gap between the artificiality of the Federal Government and its Public Service and its misguided policy positions, and the reality for the rest of the country. Maybe we should have a new law that pollies cannot access their generous Super until they reach 70 years of age - perhaps then we might see some compassion and considered thinking in this area.

      Commenter
      Dan
      Location
      Western Sydney
      Date and time
      July 31, 2014, 9:09AM
      • Did you read the statistics? 31% of the APS is aged over 50 and 11% of new recuits..that to me sounds like they are doing what they say to do. The average age in my dept is 49! I work with a 60yo and know a 76yo working a few cubicles away. If anything we have a problem getting young ones in to replace the mature ones when they do decide to retire.

        Commenter
        Jane2
        Date and time
        July 31, 2014, 10:27AM
      • There is about 15-20 years to run on the PSSS scheme. Where people were enrolled in the 54-11 retirement scheme. Policy of day. Until this time there will be a low level of 55+ staff. It's slowly starting to filter through that older staff are part of accumulation super schemes and will stay until later.
        Then consider that most government departments are going through VR's and spill and fills to cut staff and have recruitment freezes.. how are they hiring large numbers of people?

        Commenter
        Jess
        Location
        here
        Date and time
        July 31, 2014, 12:21PM
    • Susan Ryan you are a riot! Are you seriously claiming you have not witnessed the old boys / girls networks in action in workplaces like the PS? In every branch of the PS I worked in, Old People Rule was the common denominator - those guys and gals had the top jobs held tightly in their little club without exception. The unstated rule for defending this - seniority (guess where younger people play in that game - yep, left right out). And the fantastic (not), qualified (not), inovative (not) management style they lead with? Business as usual (unless of course someone more senior, no pun intended, decided it was time for a change - not very common). How did anyone on the floor really know senior management (SES) was actually alive, rather than just an accounting myth cooked up to cash some large cheques? Occasional guest appearances at a branch meeting, peddling some droll observations an APS1 might find informative on day one. Thanks for that.

      Commenter
      old people rule OK?
      Date and time
      July 31, 2014, 10:02AM
      • Agh for the arrogance of youth, I remember it well.

        Commenter
        Irene
        Date and time
        July 31, 2014, 10:37AM

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