24 January 2023

ATO won't be getting an early pay rise (but the commissioner sure gave it a red hot go)

| Chris Johnson
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Katy Gallagher

Minister says no. The ATO won’t be getting a pay rise out of Public Service Minister Katy Gallagher. Photo: Auspic.

Tax commissioner Chris Jordan has gone into bat for his troops and asked Katy Gallagher to treat them a little differently from other public servants and give them an early pay rise.

Good on him. That’s what a decent boss does for their team.

But what?

Make a special case?

The Australian Taxation Office employs about 20,000 staff and the big boss wanted an immediate 1 per cent pay rise for all of them.

Pretty much the whole APS will be getting an interim 3 per cent increase to their salaries in August this year while more permanent workplace arrangements are negotiated.

Three per cent isn’t much, particularly when inflation is above 6 per cent and interest rates keep shooting north. It is at least a token gesture the government hopes will delay demands for more from a hard-working public sector.

But the tax commissioner got in early with an ask that was denied by the Public Service Minister.

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Mr Jordan thought his staff had worked so hard through these tough years of the pandemic, natural disasters and changes to pay conditions that they should be treated a little differently from other public servants waiting for pay rises.

Senator Gallagher thought otherwise.

So the commissioner had the unenviable task of informing his entire workforce that the government doesn’t see them as anything special. Request denied.

It could have been an ambit claim from Mr Jordan, but he got nothing except an acknowledgement that his people work hard, it’s been tough times, but no exceptions to the pay rise timing schedule will be made.

There’s every chance the commissioner knew he would be refused, but he wanted to tell his staff that he gave it a good go.

The Australian Services Union also lobbied the Minister on behalf of ATO workers, but it too got short shrift.

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“While I acknowledge the workforce pressures being experienced by the ATO and numerous other APS agencies, I do not consider the ATO’s circumstances exceptional and, as such, do not intend to make an exemption for the ATO at this time,” Senator Gallagher wrote the union.

“It is my view that these workforce pressures will be best remediated by restoring the ability of the APS to collectively bargain for improved terms and conditions, consistent with the government’s broader reform plan.”

The Minister makes a good point here – it’s been hard going for almost all APS agencies these past few years.

What about the Department of Health and Aged Care? Services Australia? DFAT, Defence, Treasury, Finance, the BoM? The list goes on.

Responses to COVID and the spate of natural disasters crossing the country have been all-consuming. The Australian Electoral Commission had to conduct an election and now it’s preparing for a referendum. Hard work. Should its staff get a pay rise before those of other agencies?

After the past few years, the whole APS deserves a decent salary increase. Let’s hope they get more than the interim 3 per cent soon.

Meanwhile, it would be a bad look if one agency got an increase before another while sector-wide negotiations continue. But props to the tax commissioner for trying.

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What a joke. Most of the APS got to work from the safety of their home office.

If anyone deserves an early pay rise it’s the Nurses, Doctors, Paramedics and other front line health workers who had to turn up to their workplace and dealt with Covid hands on.

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