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Unions turn back on single accord

Community and Public Sector Union national secretary Nadine Flood addresses a protest in 2011.

Community and Public Sector Union national secretary Nadine Flood addresses a protest in 2011. Photo: Andrew Sheargold

Trade unions and public service authorities will meet in Canberra on Thursday as they prepare for the enterprise bargaining process for the nation's 168,000 federal bureaucrats.

Leaders of eight unions with members in the service have been summoned from around the country to attend a meeting at the Public Service Commission's Woden headquarters on Thursday afternoon.

The unionists have been told simply that ''the purpose of the meeting is to canvas the views of interested unions regarding possible changes to the current process for bargaining in the APS.''

The Canberra Times revealed on Wednesday that the pay gap between public servants on the same classifications but different departments might have swollen to $47,000 a year with collective agreements for all 108 agencies to expire on June 30, 2014.

Unlike the past round of talks in 2010 and 2011, the main public sector union, the CPSU, says it will not push for a central agreement.

The union movement's stand on central bargaining crumbled in 2010 in the face of a hardline commitment by the Labor government to agency autonomy.

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood recently told The Canberra Times that her union would not push for a single agreement in the new round of talks.

''Our policy position is not to have a single agreement, hasn't been for some years,'' Ms Flood said. ''Reducing pay gaps is an important issue but the issues that are keeping public servants awake at night are job security and pressure conditions if there is a change of government.''

The Public Service Commission was coy on Wednesday about the agenda for Thursday's although a spokeswoman confirmed that commissioner Stephen Sedgwick would not be attending.

''The APSC is not in a position to provide any advice on future bargaining arrangements at this time,'' the spokeswoman said.

The Australian Service Union, representing taxation office workers, has signalled that it would fight any move away from the agency bargaining status quo, telling members it is prepared to take legal action to protect its ability to negotiate directly with tax bosses.

The union's tax officers branch secretary Jeff Lapidos has issued a statement to his members pledging to resist other unions if they tried to pursue a central bargaining position.

''We have pledged to take legal action to protect our right to bargain with the ATO for our pay and conditions,'' Mr Lapidos wrote. The Australian Service Union clashed with other unions in 2010 and was outvoted in the ACTU, which chose to take the ill-fated central bargaining position to the negotiating table.

''We continued to argue our position in favour of bargaining for pay and conditions, agency by agency, as has been the case since 1998,'' Mr Lapidos said.

''The government adopted the essence of ASU's view. The ASU has been able to win pay and conditions in the ATO that are amongst the best in the Australian Public Service.

''Bargaining for the next round of enterprise agreements in the APS will be difficult, no matter who wins government after the election later this year. Money will be tight whoever wins.''


  • Nadine Flood and the CPSU just crumbled, that's all. If they were at all concerned with the wellbeing of their members, pay equity across the service would be on top of their agenda. The CPSU sold out the smaller departments and agencies in order to keep the ALP happy. And you wonder why I'm not a member any more?

    not a chance
    Date and time
    August 01, 2013, 6:54AM
    • It just points to the fact that senior unionists don't actually do anything; they are just coordinators. They are great at getting on board when all the work's being done under them by the members, but hopeless when they have to do some work themselves. In such a circumstance, they point back at the members and blame them. "Heads we win, tails you lose" in other words. At least that particular scam looks like it is over in the PS.

      Date and time
      August 01, 2013, 11:39AM
    • I think pay equity is still at the top of the CPSU agenda. And some agencies in the last round actually did make huge advances in catching up in the pay scales.

      Smaller agencies folded under pressure last time instead of waiting for the big agencies to shift the tide.

      If you want to blame someone, blame your colleagues who voted in the agreement. CPSU can't magically make people vote a certain way. You can bet though those same people will whinge about their conditions and blame the CPSU instead of committing to a longer fight at the next round.

      Date and time
      August 01, 2013, 11:45AM
  • Bureaucrats hey, they will get a bucket full and for what.

    Date and time
    August 01, 2013, 7:29AM
    • Lapidos you are an idiot when we had the agency bargaining it was your lot the small union that folded a sold out everyone else.

      Date and time
      August 01, 2013, 8:01AM
      • They should revamp the slogan: "APS Jobs - One APS Career Thousands of Opportunities" and add in "Different Pay. It's a Lottery".

        Date and time
        August 01, 2013, 10:06AM
        • In the 1970s a prospective public servant in the 3rd Division (clerical) was required to hold a Leaving Certificate or to have passed the ''October Clerical'' examination. S/he would then sit the Commonwealth Selection Test and, depending on his/her results, might be offered a base-grade clerk's position in 2 or 3 departments. On that basis, a single wage range for each level was necessary.
          I'm not sure how it works these days. Presumably base-grade positions are advertised in the press and the Commonwealth Gazette. The brightest, better-educated and those in the know no doubt apply for positions in the more-prestigious, better-paid agencies. The rest end up in the less-fashionable agencies. That does not mean that the latter are of lesser importance. In fact, the reverse is often the case.
          In the circumstances, I'm surprised, to say the least, that the CPSU in particular is opposed to a central agreement.

          Mt Isa
          Date and time
          August 01, 2013, 10:29AM
          • "The Community and Public Sector Union says... centralised negotiations would help resolve common problems across the bureaucracy.... we want central negotiations with government on service-wide issues and their service-wide position and then you resolve the rest with each individual agency." Canberra Times, 31/07/2013 (link below)

            Not exactly sure why / how this position can be seen as "turning back". Please explain.


            Date and time
            August 01, 2013, 11:27AM
            • I think the reason the CPSU are opposed to central bargaining is that you can't unscramble an egg. If you go back to central bargaining, nobody seriously believes that the pay point they will choose is the highest one, do they? So to agree to central bargaining the CPSU would be agreeing to pay reductions for some members? I don't think so.

              Date and time
              August 01, 2013, 11:35AM
              • When in doubt get a chant happening. It's a great psychological placebo for the members who feel dudded but don't know who's doing it to them. They don't realise Nadine will sell them out at the drop of a hat.

                Date and time
                August 01, 2013, 11:46AM

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