6 November 2023

Watch this space, APSC tells staff over wages standoff

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

The Australian Public Service Commission is telling employees to expect more news on wages soon. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The Australian Public Service Commission is priming the Commonwealth workforce for an imminent resolution to the wages standoff between the Federal Government and the Community and Public Sector Union.

An update to employees says the impasse means positions and next steps are being considered, and it tells them to expect more news on the matter soon.

The government’s offer of an APS-wide 11.2 per cent wage increase over three years has been rejected by the CPSU, whose members are continuing strike action across a number of federal agencies.

Public Service Minister Katy Gallagher has said there would be no further offer forthcoming as the current one was already revised up from the earlier 10.5 per cent pay rise over three years.

The CPSU has a claim for a 20 per cent wage increase over the same period.

The Minister has also dangled the possibility of the government bypassing the unions and taking its offer directly to the workforce for a vote.

Meanwhile, the APSC is doing all it can to keep the workforce informed and to highlight the benefits of the whole workplace package on the table – stressing the improved conditions on offer.

READ ALSO CPSU polling members and hoping for a new wages offer

“We appreciate many employees are wondering how we are progressing after employee representatives rejected the improved APS bargaining pay offer of 11.2 per cent over three years,” the commission has told staff.

“As this pay offer sits within the broader conditions of employment as a package, the Commonwealth is carefully considering its next steps.

“We expect to provide an update soon on how the Commonwealth hopes to progress the APS bargaining package of pay and conditions.

“Our priority remains for APS-wide bargaining to be resolved as quickly as possible.

“In the interim, we will continue to provide more detail of the APS bargaining pay and conditions package on offer to you. More to come.”

The update then points out some of the benefits of the package that had been successfully negotiated.

One is an improved commitment to integrity, transparency and respect at work.

“APS-wide bargaining has proposed a common embedded approach within each enterprise agreement on integrity and transparency, scientific integrity and Respect@Work,” its update says.

“The aim is to further enhance every agency’s ability to uphold these important matters consistently.”

The integrity, transparency and scientific integrity approach sets out how agencies understand the importance of procedural fairness to “build and maintain trust”, and it requires “fair and impartial processes” for employees impacted by service-wide or agency decisions.

Employees will be encouraged to give “frank, honest, timely advice” based on the best available evidence.

This extends to scientific and engineering advice in line with their professional qualifications.

“You won’t be discriminated against because you have given advice in line with your expertise when you are acting in line with the Public Service Act 1999,” the APSC says.

Employees can access an APS-wide ethics advisory service, attend agency-mandated training, and benefit from improved guidance on effective decision-making and record-keeping.

READ ALSO CPSU leadership in fight for APS wages and its own survival

The proposed changes would also embed a common Respect@Work position, which aims to better support individuals and agencies to understand, prevent and address workplace sexual harassment.

CPSU national secretary Melissa Donnelly notes that the union has secured some wins over working conditions for Commonwealth public servants, but the remaining sticking point is the pay offer.

“Service-wide bargaining has delivered a raft of significant improvements to workers’ conditions, which will see employees and the APS benefit,” Ms Donnelly said.

“But the Albanese Labor Government must do better on pay.

“It’s time to get on with the job of giving APS workers the long overdue decent pay rise they need and deserve.”

A CPSU membership vote narrowly accepted the 11.2 per cent offer with 51.9 per cent agreeing to it, but Ms Donnelly said the outcome was not a decisive enough result.

A grassroots group within the CPSU known as Members United wants the union to go even harder against the government in pursuit of a better pay deal.

Members United people are contesting the CPSU national executive positions, including Ms Donnelly’s, in the current union elections.

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