Public service jobs scrapped but staff still on the payroll

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More than 400 federal public servants are languishing in employment limbo after they lost their jobs but were kept on the government payroll.

The news comes as the Agriculture Department looks to shed another 100 workers, with the axe set to fall among middle and upper management at the beleaguered department.

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The public service's ''redeployment register'', which has grown three-fold since late last year, now holds the names of 427 departmental staffers cast into bureaucratic purgatory by the wave of cuts sweeping the federal government.


A worker can join the registry, which covers all Australian Public Service departments and agencies, if their department has declared their job excess but the employee refuses to take a redundancy.

Under the government's public service employment policies, there are no provisions to force a severance agreement on a public servant, even if their job has been abolished, creating an administrative headache for departmental bosses and their dwindling budgets.

It is unclear what the hundreds of ''displaced persons'' are doing when they go to work each day because individual departments are left to manage their own excess workers with no input from the central workplace authority.

A spokeswoman for the Public Service Commission confirmed on Monday that ''home agencies'' were responsible for finding work for the public servants on the register.

''The employment arrangements for these staff remain the responsibility of their home agencies while they are on the register,'' the spokeswoman said.

At least two agencies - the Health Department and the Australian Bureau of Statistics - have formed ''business services centres'' in an effort to keep their excess public servants busy while they try to find jobs either within their own departments or in the broader service.

The ABS in Canberra said it had formed its business services centre in July last year and that it had been successful in placing ''unfunded'' workers in new jobs.

Meantime, the Agriculture Department is looking to make 100 more of its public servants redundant, on top of the 220 job cuts announced late last year.

Staff were told last week that the Finance Department had given the green light to offer golden handshakes to 322 Agriculture Department workers. But the cash comes with strings attached. The Canberra Times understands 100 of the redundancies must be from the department's executive or senior executive ranks. It is also understood that several SES high-flyers departed the Agriculture Department last week with generous ''incentive to retire'' packages.  

The Canberra Times revealed last month that Agriculture bosses had been swamped with applications for redundancies, with more than 500 public servants vying for the 220 packages originally offered. The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry was $48.2 million in the red at the end of 2012-13.

Departmental boss Paul Grimes warned staff to expect the third deficit in a row this financial year.