24 August 2023

Agreement still not reached over APS wages

| Chris Johnson
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man in suit reading a report

Australian Public Service Commission chief negotiator Peter Riordan. Photo: Supplied.

Public service salaries are not set to be revisited in APS-wide negotiations until the last meeting between the Australian Public Service Commission and the Community and Public Sector Union, scheduled for Tuesday next week (29 August).

While broad support has been reached on 35 conditions in the current round of enterprise bargaining for the service, the size of a pay rise remains the one big area where agreement remains elusive.

The CPSU is holding out for a 20 per cent pay rise over three years for APS employees, while the government has stalled at 10.5 per cent over the same period.

Both the union’s claim and the Commonwealth’s offer will be thrashed out on the 29th, with some form of compromise expected.

Other conditions still to be finalised include issues of job security, capability and labour market shortages, casual and non-ongoing employment, labour hire, classifications and various types of leave.

Agreement appears to have been reached on the final points of flexible working and working from home.

READ ALSO Union asks: What about job security in the APS?

APSC chief negotiator Peter Riordan has reported that the flexible working clause was one of eight more common conditions to find support in last week’s discussions.

“We’ve also refined another three common conditions from previous discussions,” his staff update states.

“We now have 35 common conditions that will be included in all APS enterprise agreements.

“Employees will not be disadvantaged under the below arrangements. You will keep any better entitlements that exist in your current enterprise agreement.

“The common terms will set a base standard to develop commonality across the APS.”

Personal and carers leave and a holistic approach to family and domestic violence were other common conditions to have found support between parties.

On flexible working arrangements, however, consistent rights have been locked in across the service. They are:

  • Your agency will genuinely consider your flexible work requests and approve these where possible.
  • Flexibility applies to all roles in the agency, and different types of flexible working arrangements may be suitable for different types of roles or circumstances. This could include job sharing or part-time work.
  • There are no caps on the number of days you can request to work from home and your agency will consider your request based on its merits having regard to business requirements.
  • Your agency must consider connection to country and cultural obligations when reviewing First Nations flexible work requests and change of location requests.
  • While it is not the agency’s responsibility to set up your home office, agencies may provide equipment or reimbursement of costs associated with working-from-home arrangements.

For its part, the CPSU wants the government to revisit the contentious issue of privately negotiated pay rises, saying the Individual Flexibility Arrangements (IFAs) are more beneficial to men than to women.

The union has used the release of the 2022 Australian Public Service Remuneration Report as evidence to back its claim.

READ ALSO Old policies and new agencies have impacted public service pay and bonuses

According to the report, men are more likely than women to benefit from higher rates of pay in IFAs at every APS classification – APS1 through to APS6, EL1 and EL2.

An IFA is a written variation of an enterprise agreement agreed upon between an employer and an employee, and it must result in the employee being better off than if there was no IFA.

IFAs are most commonly used in the APS to increase salaries.

The CPSU has raised concerns regarding the use of IFAs in the APS for some years and even proposed an alternative to them in the early stages of the service-wide bargaining negotiations.

The APSC rejected the proposal, but CPSU national secretary Melissa Donnelly says it should come back to the table for discussion.

Woman in blue top

CPSU National Secretary Melissa Donnelly. Photo: Supplied.

“The CPSU has been concerned by IFAs for some time. Raising these concerns repeatedly has led to IFAs being reported on as part of the government’s gender equality strategy,” Mr Donnelly said.

“The CPSU put forward an alternative to IFAs earlier in the bargaining process that would establish a fair and transparent process that allows agencies to attract, retain and develop critical groups of employees, without distorting the classification system and without compromising equity and fairness. This proposal was rejected.

“In light of this report, we would welcome the opportunity to sit down with the APSC and have them re-look at our proposal.

“At the heart of this issue is a recruitment and retention crisis. IFAs are being used because the current packages employers have to offer aren’t cutting it in the labour market.

“The APS is crying out for a pay rise, and this just reinforces that.”

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