Managers at the Australian Taxation Office trying to use scratchies to fight sickies among their public servants this Christmas have hit a snag.
A workplace trade union has put the boot into the scheme, which rewards good attendance with a chance to win scratch cards from under the office Christmas tree, arguing the plan discriminates against tax officials who don't show up to work.
Managers at an ATO customer service call centre in Queensland announced at the beginning of December they were going to have "a bit of fun" while trying to reduce the rate of "unscheduled absence" at the workplace.
A Christmas tree was set up at the Upper Mount Gravatt office and every day there was no unscheduled absence, a $5 scratch card was put under the tree.
Fewer than five people off work would earn a $2 scratchie, with a $1 card placed under the tree whenever there were between six and eight absences, with no goodies on offer for days there were more than eight no-shows.
Each employee will go into the draw, to be held on Christmas Eve, with once chance to win for each week of full attendance during December.
The winner would have taken home the scratch cards and the Christmas tree.
ATO managers are being encouraged to tackle the agency's sickie problem, with the ATO still among the worst performers of the big Commonwealth departments on sickies.
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Despite being among only a small number of agencies to improve its rate of unscheduled absence in recent years, the ATO's workers were still clocking up more than three weeks, on average, of not showing up to work in the 2013-2014 financial year.
But the Australian Service Union is not happy about the "bit of fun" initiative by the managers at Upper Mount Gravatt, alleging that tax officials who fail to show up for work are the victims of discrimination.
"The discrimination arises from a 'reward' being made available to those who have not exercised their right to take unplanned leave, but denied to those who have exercised their right to take unplanned leave," union official Jeff Lapidos wrote to another manager higher up the ATO hierarchy.
"It is of particular concern to the ASU that this breach of the Fair Work Act is being taken by an assistant director who has kept her director informed, at least through the use of email courtesy copies.
"We are also concerned that this 'Challenge' is inconsistent with the positive attendance program put in place by … the ATO Enterprise Agreement 2011.
"The 'Challenge' is also arguably inconsistent with the APS Code of Conduct separate from any other breach."
Mr Lapidos told The Canberra Times that the initiative was designed to pressure employees to forgo workplace rights.
"It's disguised as a bit of fun but the whole thing is about exerting pressure on workers not to exercise a workplace right," he said.
The ATO said the initiative was intended to be a fun way of managing an issue.
"This really is a case of the ASU being a Christmas grinch," a spokeswoman said.
"We support our people to use their initiative in managing staffing issues. This was a case of someone trying to do it in a fun way and who achieved some good results.
"The ATO encourages staff to use their entitlements appropriately as stated under the enterprise agreement."
It is understood the Upper Mount Gravatt scheme was quietly abandoned after the union voiced its objections.