The Community and Public Sector Union has slammed the latest pay deal put on the table for around 20,000 Australian Taxation Office staff, branding the offer of a 0.8 per cent increase coupled with increased hours an effective pay cut.
The union on Tuesday again accused the government and Employment and Public Service Minister Senator Eric Abetz of attempting to provoke a dispute with staff in agencies across the Public Service by forcing down public service entitlements and conditions while sacking another 300 ATO staff on top of the 3000 already let go.
The government’s decision to heavily prune ATO staff numbers has raised eyebrows in financial circles because it comes at same time as revenues are falling and large multinational companies like Apple and Google have come under fire for the paltry amount of tax they pay in Australia.
The CPSU said the 0.8 per cent per year pay increase over the next three years had been coupled with the sting of an increase of working hours of 2 per cent, a deal that meant part-time staff would suffer a take-home pay cut.
“It’s a pay cut; there’s no other way to view it,” CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said. “This deal would leave workers worse off than before.”
Ms Flood added the ATO offer to its staff revealed the Abbott Government’s “real position in bargaining with public servants” which was “cutting rights and conditions, cutting living standards, and cutting jobs.”
She said the union was now seeking the views of its members on the offer before taking next steps, but that immediate member feedback had been “very negative.”
That sentiment sharply increases the likelihood of the enterprise agreement negotiations deadlocking and pushing ultimately the matter into a full blown industrial dispute.
However a spokesperson for the Tax Office countered that the agency had been “bargaining methodically and purposefully with unions and employees to negotiate a new Enterprise Agreement.”
Tax Office management has also argued that its staff have one of the shortest working days in the federal bureaucracy.
“This pay offer is affordable and is fully offset by productivity. The main productivity measure involves increasing the standard working day by 9 minutes to 7 hours 30 minutes from 7.21 which is one of the lowest working days of any APS agencies,” the ATO spokesperson said.
“Today we notified staff and bargaining representatives of the ATO’s pay offer and confirmed the productivity and affordability measures to support it. The pay offer on the table is 0.8 a year in a three year Enterprise Agreement, compounding to 2.42 per cent over the life of the agreement.”
Although while Tax Office management readily concede the new pay offer “seeks to remove” a “health and well-being allowance”, they also claimed that ATO staff had indicated “their willingness to consider” scrapping the entitlement as well as “a range of other out-dated allowances.”
“Under the offer staff will retain many conditions which they have told us are important to them. It is a balanced, affordable offer,” the ATO spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, the government’s tough bargaining position with public sector unions has already triggered disputes at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Department of Human Services with low level protected industrial action occurring at the latter.
So far the CPSU’s list of complaints about the current ATO offer include:
• Making it easier for management to terminate Tax employees
• Removal of superannuation protections from the staff agreement
• Making it harder for staff with kids to manage their working hours by placing more staff on rostered shifts
• Increasing in working hours. An extra 5.2 days a year which cuts their hourly rate of pay by 2.04 per cent.
• Removal of the Tax Office’s obligation to report on how much work is outsourced and how much is paid to contractors
• Limit employee’s right to union representation, consultation and dispute settlement
The ATO spokesperson said the next agreed date for bargaining talks was slated for Monday 16 February and that management “will commence bargaining on the pay offer with unions and staff representatives at this time.”
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