|Issue No 22||16 July 1999|
Inquiry to Lift the Lid on Public Service Bargaining
By Dermot Browne
- National Communications Officer
The CPSU has welcomed the announcement of the Finance and Public Administration References Committee inquiry into Public Employment matters.
The Committee will focus on the effect of agency based bargaining and performance pay on the accountability and transparency of the Public Service. It will also look into Senior Executive pay arrangements. The CPSU is preparing a detailed submission for the committee outlining its members concerns.
CPSU National Secretary Wendy Caird says that over the last four years the Public Service has undergone massive upheaval. "We see this inquiry as a way to assess the impact of these changes on our members and on the way services are delivered to the community".
Caird says when the Howard Government embarked on the path of totally decentralised bargaining in the APS, it claimed there would be significant benefits, particularly in customer service.
But the CPSU expects the evidence to show that the approach has been expensive, time consuming and not in the best interests of the public.
"It is important to remember that the first round of Public Service bargaining took place in an environment marked by unprecedented levels of job shedding and out-sourcing," Caird says. "What we have seen was the first stage of strategy designed to give agency heads and CEOs more 'hand' in setting pay and conditions."
Many of these changes have been a direct challenge to the traditional role of the unions and some observers have been surprised at how well they have coped with the introduction of decentralised bargaining. Particularly given Peter Reith's obvious desire to use Government employees as an example of what his legislation can do.
For example, an overwhelming majority of non-executive public service staff - almost 3 out of 4 - are covered by 'union' agreements (Section 170 Ljs). These agreements are negotiated directly between the CPSU and agencies.
And even in agencies where management insisted on making 'staff' agreements (Section 170 LK), unions have continued to play a significant role. More often than not union delegates are elected by their workmates to act as 'staff' representatives and work closely with CPSU organisers and officials to ensure the best deal possible
However Caird says it would be wrong to assume that it has been smooth sailing. There have been significant attacks on many employment conditions like Higher Duties Allowance, redundancy arrangements, allowances, overtime payments and changes to hours of work. And this looks set to continue if Peter Reith's 'Second Wave legislation is passed by the Senate.
The union also believes that the inquiry will reveal high levels of Government interference in APS bargaining.
"While talking about letting agencies manage in a new flexible way, we've seen a very heavy handed approach from Minister Reith's department. For example, at his department's insistence, it has been impossible to make agreements that limit the use of Australian Workplace Agreements, (AWAs), even though many agencies and staff didn't want them" Caird says.
Further information about the committee and its inquiry can be obtained from the secretariat on 02 6277 3530; or by email on mailto:[email protected]
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005