The Community and Public Sector Union has released a study that reveals what everyone working in the public service already knew: individual agency level wage bargaining is a dumb idea.
Agency level bargaining was implemented on the flawed basis that ‘unpopular’ agencies could attract the necessary quality staff by offering more money than the more popular agencies. However it turns out that the unpopular agencies were the ones that didn’t have much money in the first place and couldn’t match the highly funded popular agencies. As a result massive salary disparities have emerged between public servants doing the same job in different agencies. For example librarians at the National library are paid less than those at Parliament House and anyone working at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is paid 10% less than the average. It also sucks if you work in a predominately female agency.
There are now 750 different pay rates applying across the service. One of the side effects is that reorganisations within the public service are increasingly difficult as they can end up with people doing the same work in the same agency for significantly different money.
Surprisingly, it turns out that the best place to work is the Productivity Commission where an APS4 or 5 is paid $8000 above the average for those grades.
The union is calling for a standard salary scale across the service. However salaries aren’t the only disparity. Many agency agreements have included all sorts of arrangements for leave and working conditions. One small agency I know of even traded flextime for free biscuits in the tea rooms. If you thought agency agreement negotiations were bad imagine the negotiations that will be needed to bring everyone back into line again!