Defence, CSIRO to finally get a pay rise

Department of Defence photo from the Royal Australian Air Force taken during Exercise Diamond Storm.

Department of Defence staff will have a new enterprise agreement after three years of negotiations, with staff voting on a deal that improved on the three previously rejected offers, with more rights protected.

These include:

  • Comprehensive Terms of Reference for the National Workplace Relations Committee (NWRC), which includes representation rights for members and workplace delegates, and dispute escalation and settlement protocols;
  • The application of enforceable policy and process in areas of the agreement that cover situations where members’ jobs may be at risk, such as performance management and excess declaration; and
  • A proper performance management process written into the agreement.

The ballot saw 61% voting Yes to the agreement. 84% of eligible staff participated, in the first Defence ballot since December last year.

Defence is one of several major agencies voting in June, with Agriculture staff also approving a new deal earlier this week and ballots soon in the Tax Office, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and CSIRO.

CSIRO staff have also narrowly voted to approve a new enterprise agreement, with their reluctance underlining the importance and difficulty management faces in rebuilding trust in the organisation.

The agreement was secured with a 57.74% Yes vote. The ballot closed late on Thursday night, with 77% of eligible CSIRO staff participating.

CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood said: “Defence staff have finally voted up a new agreement, albeit reluctantly. This deal is a real improvement on those they’ve previously rejected but it’s far from perfect and also massively unfair that they’re copping a three-year plus pay freeze.”

The deal includes a 6% pay rise over the three-year term of the agreement.

The deal has been negotiated on a single-agency basis, as are the other public service agreements. This despite calls for single-agency negotiations to be discontinued by former public service commissioner Andrew Podger, currently a professor at the Australian National University, who was the public service commissioner between 2002 and 2004.

As reported in Government News (Dump single agency bargaining in the APS, says former Public Service Commissioner), Professor Podger said single agency bargaining has had serious, negative consequences for the public service which have outweighed the promised benefits, chiefly around flexibility.

“This has caused very serious damage to the integrity of the whole pay system in the Public Service with tangible impact on mobility within the service, serious management problems for agencies affected by machinery of government changes, justified complaints of unfairness across and within agencies, and unknown impacts on attraction and retention of the skills the APS requires,” Prof Podger told the 2016 senate inquiry into APS bargaining.

Prof Podger said single agency negotiations have created pay disparities for similar jobs  in different departments and agencies and has also damaged staff morale and caused resentment.

“What’s happened is they’ve all gone their different ways and none of them have been able to focus on the market,” says Prof Podger.

“Strict central rules led to different pay rates, not because they are useful but because they are forced to be there.”

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