29 January 2023

APS Commission seeking employee views directly

| Chris Johnson
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Australian Government building. Australian Public Service Commission. Bureau of Meteorology.

Australian Public Service Commission. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The Federal Government is asking Australian public servants directly what outcomes they would like to see as a result of service-wide bargaining for common employment terms and conditions.

Deputy APS commissioner Peter Riordan has written an open letter to all employees informing them of the initial steps being taken to reduce pay fragmentation across the sector.

The commission is also seeking employee input via an anonymous survey.

“I am reaching out to you directly because I want to ensure that all APS employees have the opportunity to contribute to the development of this very important process,” Mr Riordan wrote. “I therefore want to hear from you about your views and priorities for APS bargaining and invite you to have your say.”

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To inform the APS bargaining process, the APSC has been consulting with APS agencies and unions. It now seeks employees’ views directly through a short survey linked in the open letter.

“The survey seeks your views about what employment conditions matter the most to you, and what conditions you consider should be standardised across the APS,” the deputy commissioner wrote. “The survey is anonymous and will take you less than five minutes to complete. The survey will close on Friday 3 February 2023.”

Information collected from the survey will inform the development of the comprehensive workplace relations policy to guide APS service-wide bargaining. More information on the survey and the progress of the APS bargaining can be found on the commission’s APS bargaining website.

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Public Service Minister Katy Gallagher has promised an APS-wide interim 3 per cent pay increase for most employees, while more permanent workplace arrangements are negotiated.

Unions representing the public sector are negotiating in good faith while also saying that 3 per cent is not a pay rise at all in the face of current inflation levels.

Senator Gallagher has conceded that point.

“No, it’s not a real wage increase and we haven’t pretended it is,” she has stated. “Obviously with inflation where it is, I don’t think anyone’s pretending we would be offering wages in the order of six or seven per cent. But we want to be a model employer, we want to be able to attract people to the public service.”

Meanwhile, the Government is preparing to introduce legislation in the second half of this year to amend the Public Service Act – the first time since 1999.

Government reforms will see much of the Thodey Review implemented and push for a new-look public service.

Since forming government, Labor has insisted it wants to reshape the APS to be more transparent, with higher levels of integrity, and less reliance on external contractors and consultants.

“It must be empowered to be honest and truly independent, to defend legality and due process and deliver advice that the government of the day might not want to hear, just as loudly as the advice that we do,” Senator Gallagher has said.

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Over twenty years in DFAT and I feel the underlying problem was the inability of the system to differentiate suitable candidates for promotion to levels or positions.

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