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Tax Office angry at 'disrespectful' union letter setting out changes

The seat of power in the Australian Taxation Office is set to move from Canberra to Sydney, tax workers have been told, overturning decades of public service tradition.

And the office consolidation that sparked industrial strife in Sydney and Brisbane is set to intensify as workers in other capitals are soon to be on the move, according to one of the ATO's unions.

The ATO confirmed on Wednesday that it was facing ''difficult decisions'', but took aim at the Australian Services Union, saying its message to members was ''disappointing'', ''disrespectful'' and included personal attacks on senior Tax Office staff.

In a strident letter to its ATO members sent out on Wednesday, the union alleged that the Tax Office was in ''turmoil'' and that many more of its staff could be forced to move to new workplaces.

ASU organiser Jeff Lapidos said the closure of offices at Southport in Queensland and Hurstville in Sydney, and looming moves from central Sydney to Parramatta, which have been bitterly received by workers forced to move, will be repeated at other sites around the nation.

''[The] decision to move from Sydney to Parramatta makes it doubly clear such consolidations will be a feature of ATO 'planning' over the next year or two,'' Mr Lapidos wrote to his union's members.

''This is likely to affect all major ATO offices around Australia. People will be expected to move in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.''

Do you know more? Send your confidential tips to ps@canberratimes.com.au

He also predicted changes to workplaces in Adelaide, Perth and Hobart. The official said Taxation Commissioner Chris Jordan, pictured, was preparing to break with decades of tradition and move his main base of operations from Canberra to Sydney's central business district.

''It is difficult to predict what will happen with National Office functions in Canberra, given the Commissioner['s] interest in working from Sydney and seems to only want to go to Canberra if he is required by his masters,'' Mr Lapidos wrote.

The cash-strapped ATO is cutting 900 jobs this year in an effort to balance its books. It is also undertaking a program of consolidation around the country after it reached a point where nearly 5000 desks were sitting empty in its office buildings.

The Canberra Times revealed this month that a new suite of offices is being built for Mr Jordan and senior deputies on the top floor of the Tax Office's Latitude East building in Sydney's CBD with the 50 or so rank-and-file staff displaced by the work likely to be sent to Parramatta.

An ATO spokeswoman said on Wednesday the office was disappointed with Mr Lapidos' approach to his message to members.

''Throughout this process we have consulted with staff and with unions in a genuine, professional and courteous way,'' she said. ''It is disappointing to see the ASU reporting on good faith interactions in a disrespectful way, including personal remarks about the conduct of the ATO Commissioner and Executive.''

26 comments

  • The way our government departments are being run is appalling. Every buffoon who gets a position of power thinks he knows it all and can rip up how things are done and reshape it in his own image. Not to say that govt. departments shouldn't change from time to time, but these days its never done from knowledge or understanding of how things work, its just slash and burn to make some spreadsheet come out right. It's disgusting.

    Commenter
    John
    Date and time
    May 01, 2014, 1:36AM
    • "The cash-strapped ATO"

      Is that an oxymoron?

      Commenter
      ekib
      Date and time
      May 01, 2014, 7:11AM
      • You do realise the Tax office only collects the money for the government, not itself?

        Commenter
        Oxymoron
        Date and time
        May 01, 2014, 11:19AM
      • umm.. No.

        Commenter
        dj
        Date and time
        May 01, 2014, 2:11PM
    • Some of these decisions show a total disrespect for ATO staff. Chris Jordan is happy to uproot staff & their families and shift them to unfriendly places but he is not prepared to move himself from his base in Sydney to Canberra - where he should be. This is compounded by moving senior National Office positions to sit along side him in Sydney

      Commenter
      Chris
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      May 01, 2014, 8:36AM
      • Well when our PM decides to live in Sydney he sends a message that Canberra is not up to scratch. If the next Commissioner is from OS can we expect his office to be in New York/London/Paris ?

        Commenter
        MST
        Date and time
        May 01, 2014, 9:39AM
        • Our PM lives in Sydney because his residence in Canberra is a dump that and builder will tell you should be condemned.

          Commenter
          Kambah Kid
          Date and time
          May 01, 2014, 1:35PM
        • Or New Delhi?

          Commenter
          Over IT
          Location
          ACT
          Date and time
          May 01, 2014, 3:08PM
      • Yes this makes sense because things are much cheaper in Sydney....

        Commenter
        WorkingMum
        Date and time
        May 01, 2014, 10:30AM
        • So that's what the Commissioner's Sydney penthouse was all about.

          Give the man another pay hike, item four on duty statement, increasingly onerous complexity of dealing with ungrateful rebellious underlings.

          Commenter
          Stephen
          Date and time
          May 01, 2014, 11:08AM

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