Union members in Services Australia will stop work for an hour on Tuesday, protesting proposed changes to their entitlements, as they escalate two weeks of industrial action over APS pay and conditions.
Community and Public Sector union national secretary Melissa Donnelly accused the agency's management of an "agenda of cuts", after it presented the changes in a round of enterprise bargaining.
The one-hour strike, on Tuesday from 4pm, follows two weeks of industrial action by CPSU members in the agency, agitating for an improved APS-wide pay deal.
It is the first step taken by the union which will impact customers, with members prepared to take more drastic action, expressing strong support for 24-hour stoppages in a protected action ballot.
While service-wide talks on common pay and conditions continue, Services Australia is among about 30 government agencies which have begun agency-level negotiations on enterprise agreements.
Tensions have flared early, with the union slamming management's offer to change processes around rostering, call monitoring and performance management.
The union has been vocal about conditions for staff at the agency, who it says have suffered through years of under-resourcing, and many of whom were forced to roll out the unlawful robodebt scheme, despite their concerns.
"Attacking employees' working conditions and rights is not only out of step with every other conversation happening across the APS, but it is out of step with the goals and commitments made by the Albanese Labor government," Ms Donnelly said.
But Services Australia general manager Hank Jongen said the agency had tabled "minimal proposed changes" and was not attempting to remove any benefits or entitlements.
"We are committed to bargaining in good faith and making the process fair and simple," Mr Jongen said.
"We're taking a collaborative, problem-solving approach to the matters raised through bargaining."
Proposals by management to change rostering arrangements would remove a requirement to genuinely negotiate with staff, the union said, instead only allowing suggestions.
Staff would also lose the right to be advised beforehand and in writing that their calls were being monitored and to request certain limitations such as fixed periods of time, or numbers of calls which could be monitored.
And revisions to performance management would make it easier for people to lose their job, the union added. Plans intended to manage staff who are not meeting expectations would be reduced from 10 weeks to four weeks.
"While the APSC, and other agencies, are generally taking a collaborative and positive approach to bargaining, Services Australia management seem to be stuck in the past with their agenda of cuts," Ms Donnelly said.
Mr Jongen said proposed changes to rostering were "minor" and changes to performance management were based on staff feedback.
"We've proposed minor changes to staff rostering such as to extend the period in which staff take lunch by 30 minutes. This is to help manage workloads and support staff and customers," he said.
"We've proposed changes to performance management based on what staff and managers have told us they want. The time allowed to formally manage underperformance would bring us in line with agreements in other agencies."
Though service-wide negotiations were undertaken with "an intention that pay or conditions won't go backward", a spokesperson for the Australian Public Service Commission said agencies could revise their conditions in the second round of bargaining.
"Individual agencies are able to negotiate matters related to operational requirements through agency-level bargaining, and in-line with good faith bargaining requirements," the spokesperson said.
"This can result in some conditions changing as they negotiate an outcome."
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It is not yet clear if the government will revise a service-wide pay offer of 10.5 per cent, after the union shot it down for lacking "ambition".
Union members commenced industrial action over pay at the beginning of the month, boycotting entering auxiliary codes, which are used by management to track the tasks staff complete.
The Public Service Commission won't revisit its pay offer until August 29, as service-wide talks continue to drag out beyond an initial deadline of July 31.
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