14 August 2023

Union asks: What about job security in the APS?

| Chris Johnson
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Woman on phone in office.

Job security is the latest point of contention in APS negotiations. Photo: File.

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) is placing pressure on the government to come clean over job security for Commonwealth public servants, saying it has so far refused to engage on the topic during service-wide bargaining negotiations.

The union has taken particular aim at the Australian Public Service Commission for being what it is describing as “tight-lipped on its approach” to the CPSU’s job security proposals.

“The job security measures that we have put forward at the bargaining table go directly to rebuilding the Australian Public Service,” CPSU national secretary Melissa Donnelly said.

“The APS cannot be strong, frank and fearless if it is a workforce made up of individuals who don’t know when or if they will have a contract extended.

“Staff cannot provide frank and fearless advice if their next pay cheque isn’t guaranteed. Experience and expertise will not be retained if an employee’s contract is in the hands of someone else.”

The union reports that it has put forward multiple proposals relating to job security, which go to increasing transparency around the engagement of consultants and contractors, and the creation of pathways to permanent APS employment for casual and non-ongoing employees.

READ ALSO It’s official, the reliance on external consultants has gone troppo

Ms Donnelly said the proposals are in step with the government’s commitment to rebuild the APS, and follow after the “costly proliferation of insecure employment” under the former Coalition government.

She said job insecurity has compromised the work and wellbeing of APS employees and workplaces.

“It is time for it to be shown the door and for ongoing employment to be re-established as the preferred basis of engagement,” she said.

“Our members are passionate about their jobs and about serving their country through a career in public service.

“The APSC needs to demonstrate that same level of commitment back to those staff and prioritise job security moving forward.”

There are no bargaining meetings scheduled beyond 24 August, causing the CPSU to describe the APSC’s “current preference to keep things casual” as cause for concern.

Since winning government, Labor has promised to slash the massive spend on external consultants and labour-for-hire contracts in order to focus on more jobs and job security for actual public servants.

In its latest negotiations update, the APSC did not specifically mention job security, but said its chief negotiator Peter Riordan was still considering a number of proposals and claims.

“Mr Riordan will consider the Commonwealth’s position further on capability and labour market shortages,” it said.

The APSC has so far reached a broad agreement with the CPSU and other employee representatives on 24 common conditions to be included in all APS enterprise agreements.

READ ALSO APS agreement reached on many important conditions, but not yet on wages

The union has secured a number of wins for employees, particularly over flexible working arrangements and work-from-home.

One big area where an agreement still hasn’t been reached is over APS wage increases.

The APSC has signalled it is so far not prepared to up its offer of a 10.5 per cent pay rise over three years.

The CPSU is holding out for a 20 per cent wage increase over the same period.

The stalemate suggests further CPSU-led industrial action at Services Australia could be a possibility.

Speaking last week, Finance and Public Service Minister Katy Gallagher said the government would continue working with the CPSU and others to reach an agreement on wages and other conditions.

“We’re negotiating not just on pay, but on conditions and cleaning up some of the fragmentation that’s occurred over the last decade,” Senator Gallagher said.

“So this is the first genuine bargaining that’s occurred in the APS in a long time.

“I don’t think it’s any surprise that there’ll be a few bumps along the way to getting a final resolution.”

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The Workplace Coach10:21 am 25 Nov 23

I think the unions need to recognise that the changes to the employment landscape in relation to fixed term or non-ongoing employees will shift dramatically post 6 December 2023. The new legislation is going to provide an added level of security for employees, and will impact the way the APS need to recruit and manage their workforce going forward.

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