National

Tax Office workers tell bosses 'we don't trust you', union says

The Tax Office has conceded that trust in Commissioner of Taxation Chris Jordan is "an issue" in wage negotiations with the agency's 18,000 public servants, according to one workplace union.

Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan says sometimes, when businesses are not doing well, they want to blame the ATO.
Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan says sometimes, when businesses are not doing well, they want to blame the ATO. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

The Australian Services Union says a workplace-wide survey into the reasons behind the rejection in December of a new enterprise agreement identified "trust in the commissioner" as an issue in the continued wages deadlock at the department, ATO negotiators have told unions.

But the account of the bargaining meeting is 'misleading, inaccurate, nonsensical' and a grab for publicity by the ASU, says the ATO in a tough-talking response to the union's claims.

The two sides are back at the bargaining table after an offer to the workforce was crushed by 85 per cent to 15 per cent in a ballot in late 2015, with the ATO hierarchy responding by giving its senior executives a 3 per cent pay rise and commissioning a survey of all other employees to determine what went wrong.

The survey results came up in renewed talks this week according to a bulletin sent out to several hundred ASU members in the Tax Office by outspoken union official Jeff Lapidos.

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"(Senior ATO executive) Steve Ramsey conceded that employees' trust in the commissioner was an issue," Mr Lapidos wrote to his members.

"I pressed him to provide the ATO's employees with the analysis of the survey and their findings from the focus groups etc.

"But Steve would not give an unqualified commitment to do so.

"This was an about face from our last meeting when Steve promised transparency."

But Mr Ramsey's boss, Second Commissioner Geoff Leeper reacted strongly on Wednesday to Mr Lapidos' comments.

"These claims by the ASU are inaccurate and misleading," Mr Leeper said.

"This is a deliberate attempt by the ASU to undermine our employees' trust in us and in the bargaining process.

"It is disappointing that these conversations are then taken out of context and misrepresented for the benefit of securing the ASU publicity.

"We trust our staff to recognise what is a reasonable representation of the discussions to form our offer, and that they will not be distracted by inaccurate, incorrect and nonsensical summaries of the current negotiations."

The workplace unions are pushing for an improvement on the pay offer, of an average of 2 per cent per year, that was knocked back in December and want rights and conditions returned to a new proposed enterprise agreement after they were "streamlined" out of the document in keeping with the Coalition's tough public service bargaining policy.

Mr Ramsey told ATO staff in an email on Wednesday morning that the ATO wanted to have a new draft agreement out for consultation by early in March and was still hopeful that a deal could be in place and signed by the end of June.

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