Public Service Minister Katy Gallagher has foreshadowed significant disagreement with staff over wages and conditions as the government pushes ahead with workplace bargaining for the APS.
During her opening address to the State of the Service Roadshow event for the ACT this week, Senator Gallagher suggested that while she was committed to a genuine negotiation process, it wouldn’t all be going the employees’ way.
“We want to engage with our employees, and through their representatives, through the unions, we want to genuinely bargain,” she said.
“Now, I’ve been around this block a few times, so I do know that it’s not all going to be smooth sailing and there will be times that we disagree.
“But I can assure you that the government wants to work with you as a model employer to reach an agreement.”
The State of the Service Roadshow is an annual event series presented by the Australian Public Service Commission to share key findings from the State of the Service Report.
It is presented, mostly virtually, to staff located in various sites, kicking off this week for employees in the ACT. Staff get the chance to ask questions and hear from APS leaders in their local state or territory.
Senator Gallagher said the government was “keeping an eye on” reports of negative workplace culture in some agencies across the APS and requiring the publishing of all census results was one way of keeping on top of any problems.
But when it came to workplace culture, it was the fallout of Robodebt that concerned employees.
Would there be a culture change resulting from the lessons learned in the royal commission into the illegal, automated debt recovery scheme?
Stressing that the royal commission was still ongoing, APS Commissioner Peter Woolcott said there was a lot to take notice of from what has already emerged.
“There’s been a whole suite of issues that have come out of that, which we will need to think seriously about,” Mr Woolcott said.
“PM&C, APSC and the Attorney-General’s Department have established a task force to start working through some of these issues, but obviously, we have to wait till we receive the interim report from the royal commission and their final report.”
Senator Gallagher repeated her intention to cut back on external consultants, but it was PM&C deputy secretary for APS reform Rachel Bacon who outlined ways of establishing a workable in-house consultancy model.
A process underway has identified more than 250 areas of expertise that agencies could share with each other.
“There’s some amazing capability right across the service that we’re thinking about,” Dr Bacon said.
“How do we take a networked approach to that capability?”
A successful British civil service in-house consulting model is being examined to see how it could be applied to the APS.
Over the next two weeks, the APSC’s State of the Service Roadshow travels (virtually) to APS employees in all Australian states and the Northern Territory, with all APS employees invited to attend and take part.