24 January 2023

Internal APS outrage over inconsistencies with Australia Day leave

| Chris Johnson
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Public Service Minister Katy Gallagher delivering a speech

Public Service Minister Katy Gallagher said the Australia Day public holiday swap had to be allowable in an agency’s EBA. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Staff across federal government agencies are discovering just how flexible their bosses are about swapping this week’s Australia Day holiday for another day’s leave.

Many have been left disappointed over denied requests to work on Thursday, despite the Government saying they could take an alternative day off.

It is leading to significant unrest in some agencies, with some staff believing they are being discriminated against.

While the Labor Government has made much noise about reversing a Coalition order that public servants must observe 26 January as the public holiday, ministers have also referred to each department’s enterprise bargaining agreement.

And that’s where Australian public servants are discovering that some are more equal than others.

Some agencies are publicising internally that staff can swap days if celebrating 26 January is against their values.

READ ALSO Albo, the APS, and Australia Day

Internal memos even appear to encourage staff to take another day off – and managers are taking the opportunity to promote their agency’s recognition of diversity in the workplace.

But while these departments are patting themselves on the back to their staff, others are steadfastly refusing to accommodate such requests if the provision is not explicitly stated in their EBA.

Memos in some of these agencies are actually telling staff that their EBA does not allow for swapping any public holidays, “including the upcoming Australia Day” leave.

“This is outrageous,” a senior APS contact told Region.

“Employees in one department can express their unease over January 26 and be permitted a different time off, but in another department, they can’t.

“The EBA is being used against staff who have very valid reasons to not want to have a day off on January 26.”

Another source said: “The government is praising itself as being progressive on this issue and making us believe January 26 can be optional, but they’re not pointing out that it only applies to some.”

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First Nations people have long campaigned for Australia Day to be commemorated on a day other than 26 January because they see that date as a day of invasion and hurt.

They are finding growing support for this sentiment in the broader Australian community.

More private sector businesses than ever before are allowing staff to swap the public holiday for another day off, as are most non-government enterprises.

Knowing this, just before last year’s election, Scott Morrison ordered all Commonwealth public servants to observe Australia Day on 26 January.

Upon being elected, Labor reversed that order and reverted to previous arrangements.

“Most APS enterprise agreements contain provisions for APS employees to request substitution of a specific public holiday, where agreed between an employee and their manager or agency head,” a spokesperson for the Australian Public Service Commission said in a statement to Region.

“The former government’s directive that limited substitution of certain public holidays in new enterprise agreements has been revoked by the Minister for the Public Service, Senator Katy Gallagher.”

In her public statements, Senator Gallagher noted that it had to be allowable in an agency’s EBA.

“Basically, what’s happening this year is the same as what’s happened in years past,” she said.

“In people’s enterprise agreements in the APS, there’s been the ability for many years to substitute days based on operational requirements in consultation with your managers, if that’s allowable in the EBA …

“Part of our election policy was to allow a return to genuine bargaining in the APS, to allow for bargaining between departments and their employees, with their employee representatives and unions at the table. And this is in line with that policy.”

For some, however, this year’s Australia Day commemorations have come too soon for inflexible managers to be able to cope with requests for alternative arrangements.

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Should be thankful to receiving a public holiday in general.

Solution – replace APS with contractors. They get things done instead of looking at their navel

They don’t. And they’re more expensive.

Contractors get things done you say? Tell that to the ones we hired that sat in their behinds for 8 months and churned out a bunch of garbage that read like a uni student had got the info from wikipedia. Contractors are HIGHLY variable in their quality and willingness to do work, and they are universally always gold plated in their costs. The fact is that they’ve been used so much as to become dependent and frankly grossly inefficient. Learning to survive after being weaned off the public dollar is a cleansing and necessary action at this point.

William Newby7:20 am 25 Jan 23

Next it’ll be those that are non religious wanting to skip Easter and Christmas. The half thoughts of Labour just seem to be dividing this country even further.

That’s always been the case, as stated in the article. It is only recently that Scott Morrison made Australia Day exempt from swapping out.

So, yes, if you want to swap Easter for say Orthodox Easter then that is something that can be discussed with your manager if your agency EA allows it.

Swapping is possible in the APS but by no means guaranteed.

There should be no confusion and certainly no outrage. It all comes down to specifics of each agency’s EA, policies, management discretion and operational requirements.

There are no “inconsistencies” just different EAs and arrangements.

If they object, sure work the Thursday- but dont swap a day. Forgo the public holiday as an expression of your disagreement.

Exactly what I tell my employees steveu. If you are not going to observe the public holiday you are free to work but you will not get another day off in lieu. Put your money where your mouth is.

If you are doing that for one public holiday you should be doing it for all public holidays.
I’m sure every public holiday offends someone somewhere.

Provided the EBA allows it, staff can exchange any public holiday already. Australia day isn’t special.

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