You won't get a better deal, public servants told

Tens of thousands of public servants at the Commonwealth's biggest department have been told they will not get a better workplace deal than the one they overwhelmingly rejected in February.

Department of Human Services workers are being urged by their bosses to accept the workplace agreement they rejected, ...
Department of Human Services workers are being urged by their bosses to accept the workplace agreement they rejected, because it is the best offer they will get.  Photo: Jeffrey Chan

The Department of Human Services has told its 34,000 employees that "considerable concessions" has already been made during negotiations and that other departments had agreed to accept offers that were comparable to the one rejected in the landslide vote.

Meantime two other big departments, Defence and the ATO, look set for a quick return to the ballots after their proposed agreements were also rejected.

Public servants at the giant Department of Human Services rejected, by a margin of 80 per cent, an offer of 2 per cent per year over three years, largely over fears about workplace entitlements.

But they were told last week that the proposal was the best available under the Coalition's tough workplace bargaining policies and that most of their entitlements were safe.


In a bulletin sent out to department staff last week, senior executive Adrian Hudson also had a swipe at the main workplace union, accusing the CPSU of refusing to compromise in its talks with DHS management.

"During bargaining the department has made considerable concessions, however the CPSU has not," Mr Hudson said.

"Bargaining is not a one-way street and all parties must be prepared to give and take.

"In February 2016 we gave you our best offer – staying within the requirements of the bargaining framework while ensuring that the offer was affordable.

"The proposed agreement included the highest available pay offer under the bargaining framework and was above the current inflation rate of 1.7 per cent.

"It also retained most of the entitlements from the current agreement."

But for the workforce, much of which has had its wages frozen since mid-2013, back pay remains out of the question, Mr Hudson added.

"The proposal could not include back pay," he wrote.

"This was in line with the bargaining policy, which states 'Remuneration increases are to apply prospectively'.

"Such requirements are not new, they have been a feature of bargaining policies of successive governments over many years.

"Several other departments, including Health, Social Services, Veterans' Affairs and Employment, have all recently voted to support agreements.

"Our offer was equal to or better than all of those offers."

The Defence Department has already flagged its intention to hold another poll as quickly as possible after its proposal was defeated by just 2 per cent this month.

The Australian Taxation Office, after adopting a more conciliatory approach, told workers last week it too wanted an early poll after its latest proposal was crushed by 85 per cent.

"We want to provide you with an opportunity to vote on a new agreement by the end of April," Assistant Commissioner of Taxation Steve Ramsey wrote to workers last week.

"The progress of bargaining discussions will determine the exact timing of this."

Mr Ramsey's boss, Commissioner of Taxation Chris Jordan, has flagged a new deal, backing away from some of the more contentious provisions of the defeated agreement.

But Mr Ramsey confirmed that the ATO would not be budging on money.

"We intend to keep the 6 per cent pay increase over the three years of the agreement," he wrote.


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