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Union outrage as Human Services prepares 'shocker' squeeze on work conditions

Date

Noel Towell

The Department of Human Services is facing a battle for unpaid work.

The Department of Human Services is facing a battle for unpaid work.

The federal government’s biggest department is accused of trying to squeeze an extra $100 million of work each year from its public servants – for free.

But the giant Department of Human Services has returned the union’s fire, accusing the Community and Public Sector Union of making $1 billion worth of demands from its new enterprise agreement.

DHS’s plan to keep its 35,000 public servants at their desks for an extra six minutes each day will net the government $104 million of work each year, but without a pay rise on the table.

The working hours push is part of an aggressive assault on conditions of workers during the enterprise bargaining process at the behemoth department which runs Centrelink, Medicare and the Child Support Agency.

As well as the longer working hours, DHS bureaucrats face the loss of overtime payments, a crackdown on leave entitlements, losing the right to be consulted on work rosters and a tougher ''performance management'' regime.

But a departmental spokesman told The Canberra Times the “ideas are simply the current proposals, and are still being actively discussed”.

The CPSU, the department’s main union, describes the department’s plan as a “shocker” and is warning DHS’s 35,000 public servants to brace for fresh attack on their wages when the departmental bosses unveil their pay offer.

CPSU deputy national president Lisa Newman, has told her members that the bosses’ plan to add six minutes to the department’s working day of 7.5 hours would add up to big gains for the federal government.

''This would result in an additional 30 minutes work per week, an additional 3.46 days’ work per year and an approximate 1.36 per cent pay cut for all DHS workers,'' union official told DHS workers.

''This means working an extra six minutes a day will deliver the government $104 million dollars in additional working hours but will not deliver you a fair and reasonable pay rise.''

Ms Newman also accused DHS of dragging its feet on making a pay offer, saying public servants were effectively on a pay freeze while negotiations continued after the government banned back-pay on new workplace agreements.

''They know that every week that goes past represents a pay freeze for their Australian Public Service workforce,'' Ms Newman said.

“It’s hard to imagine a pay offer that could possibly compensate DHS workers for the cuts the department has proposed. However, until we know what their pay offer is, no one can make an informed decision.”

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood backed her union official, sayng DHS staffers were already putting in extra hours at work.

''DHS workers have copped hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts, which have led to massive workload pressures and increased client aggression,'' Ms Flood said.

''Now they're being told none of that extra work counts as productivity in bargaining.''

But DHS Human Services general manager Hank Jongen said his department was putting in more effort than any other public service agency into striking a deal with its workers, despite operating in a difficult financial environment.

''There have been 13 days of bargaining, more than any other agency, and the department is committed to putting the agreement to the vote as soon as possible,'' Mr Jongen said.

''For the department, every 1 per cent pay increase per year equates to around $181 million over the three-year life of the new agreement.

”We have costed some elements of the union’s log of claims for our department at over $1 billion dollars over the life of the new agreement. This is unaffordable.”

65 comments

  • If the government can no longer afford a Public Service then they will just have to do without one. I'm not up for working for free. They will just have to drastically cut outputs. Good luck with that.

    Commenter
    Man
    Date and time
    July 10, 2014, 6:59AM
    • Departmental Management can call it 'demands' if they like, but enterprise agreements are actually a negotiation process and APS staff know from bitter past experience that if it's not on the table, it won't even be considered. APS will not be treated like serfs.

      Commenter
      Mardi
      Location
      Tuggeranong
      Date and time
      July 10, 2014, 7:22AM
    • With cuts looming over their heads I would be head down bum up showing that I am prepared to work to keep my job.. But I guess public service mentality is no-one will put in any extra effort with out them getting something for it. Cut, slash and burn I say cut the fat off these greedy cats and let them taste what very other Australian has to do just to keep themselves employed. Please don't expect sympathy as I'm not getting paid to feel sorry for you for even 1 minute!!

      Commenter
      Some People Eh!!!
      Date and time
      July 10, 2014, 8:58AM
    • Oh come on people! We're talking an extra 6 minutes a day. I'm surrounded by APS members who take 30 mins just to have a cigarette, or take a crap, or make a coffee. What ever happened to the days where actually having a job was a privellage and not a right. Wipe the tears from your eyes, stop moaning and bitching about your very generous conditions and get on with actually doing the job you are paid for you big bunch of sooks. I challenge any APS to show me that they are flat out 100% of their day. No such animal exists.

      Commenter
      RamROD
      Date and time
      July 10, 2014, 10:54AM
    • sad comment by some people. I have worked in the private sector where unpaid work is the norm and it sucks. is this really the sort of society you want? If so I have some odd jobs around the house you could do for me - sorry can't pay you but then you're happy for others to work for nothing so why not you? Just for reference I'm an EL1 in the public service and usually work at least 4-5 hours a week above my normal hours for which I am well paid in the base salary. For those that this will really affect which is lower paid APS employees this is quite an impost

      Commenter
      dophin
      Location
      canberra
      Date and time
      July 10, 2014, 11:04AM
    • Welcome to Planet Canberra. Ridiculous concept, ridiculous debate.

      When you get back from coffee please spare a thought for the army of self-employed and small business people who only get paid (less the taxes that pay you) when they deliver a product or service to a client. And they have to keep doing it because their house or savings are on the line. The APS is stuffed full of underworked, overpaid, low-skilled whingers who do not know how good they have it.

      Sorry ... Is that an echo? Oh, that's right most of you are on holiday / sick leave.

      Commenter
      RB
      Location
      ACT
      Date and time
      July 10, 2014, 11:57AM
    • After reading most of the comments from those purporting to be from Private Enterprise, it is obvious that they are still seeing the Public Service (PS) from a past decade/s with regard to how the PS works.
      Unfortunately, time and post length limitations restrict my ability to counter all the rash statements and somewhat outrageous assertions that you make, so I'll be brief and concise.
      Things have changed radically from those decades - most notably when John Howard broke PS negotiations from APS wide to individual Departments with Enterprise agreements. Break them down into easier to suppress units, and minimise the negotiating power.
      Like any Private Enterprise (PE) businesses there are people who work harder than others to ensure the success of the organisation, and others who do as little as possible toward that end, but still expect the rewards that the others get in the APS.
      And yes, despite your claims that PE always does it better, experience in the Department I worked for for 30 years was that it mostly cost more, or the service provision decreased, when provision of services were outsourced. As for responsibility for outcomes, when things went wrong, it was the APS that was at fault, and PE when things worked well.
      Re conditions of service, I presume (and correct me if I am wrong) most smart businesses will have a contract with you detailing hours to be worked, salary/wage, leave and other conditions, so it is your choice if you work over and above that, or don't fully utilise (legitimately) those conditions. If your conditions aren't as good as the APS, maybe you should seek some assistance in your next contract negotiation (Or, join a union! shock horror!)
      And please, keep discussions factual and reasonable, not personal and abusive.
      Manana!

      Commenter
      Little Ray Of Sunshine
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      July 10, 2014, 12:06PM
    • I'm sorry I should have been clearer, I already do extra hours, I already put in extra work, I have been creating efficiencies for the past few years, my area was recently reduced by 60% and so I am already doing the work of multiple people. This idea that the PS can just constantly work harder is based on outdated ideas and opinions with very little evidence. When everything is cut back this far what suffers is quality and accuracy. The PS has been pushed to a point where it is unreasonable to expect the same output. Therefore what will have to go is the PS outputs. Apparently the government can no longer afford the PS so they will have to do without.

      Commenter
      Man
      Date and time
      July 10, 2014, 12:52PM
    • Anyone who supports it should have to stand in an understaffed Centrelink office for those 6 mins every weekday of the year, for free.

      Commenter
      Reality
      Date and time
      July 10, 2014, 9:39PM
  • Whether worker get their pay rise or are made to work extra time, they should work to rules. Work no extra time to what is set and give nothing extra. Show this heartless mob just how much extra public servants have been giving to the government. And I'm sure public service chiefs are being offered performance bonuses to force workers work extra time for no pay increase.

    Commenter
    C of Southside
    Date and time
    July 10, 2014, 7:03AM

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