Govt accused of outsourcing sparkies while underpaying Parliament House staff

The federal Department of Parliamentary Service (DPS) is refusing to pay electricians and trade staff who work at Parliament House industry rates, whiles outsourcing the work at a much higher cost, unions claim.

The ETU’s Allen Hicks

The Department of Parliamentary Services is the principal support agency for Parliament House, with some 1,000 staff and an annual budget of around $120 million.

Full time electricians employed by the DPS are paid about $30,000 below the industry average, the Electrical Trades Union says.

The ETU says wages are so low that that department has ended up with a shortage of staff, and is outsourcing the roles at a much higher rate of pay.

Government News understands that multiple refurbishments and upgrades have been outsourced to contractors including switchboard upgrades, Digital Addressable Lighting Interface (DALI) lighting control systems and general refurbishments.

Sparkies walk out

DPS’s refusal to lift wages for full-time trades staff was senseless, ETU NSW and ACT Secretary Allen Hicks said.

“It’s a kick in the guts to have contractor staff who’re paid competitive industry rates working alongside trade-qualified permanent employees who’re earning the equivalent of a contractor apprentice,” he said in a statement.

“We have federal politicians acknowledging the need to fill the chronic shortage of electrical workers, yet one of their own departments is offering their trades staff a dud deal that does nothing to retain and attract the workforce.”

Parliament house electricians and tradies walked out in protest over their pay on Monday and rallied on the front lawn of Parliament House on Monday afternoon during a 24 hour walkout.

“The department has continued to ignore our calls for fairer wages for trades staff working inside Parliament House, so we’ll make them loud and clear out the front,” Mr Hicks said.

“The department must do the decent thing and provide their permanent trades staff a better deal that delivers competitive wages.”

It’s understood that the union’s main objective is to raise awareness about the poor pay for qualified trades staff at DPS and highlight the pay difference with contractors around the ACT.

It’s also hoped the government will put pressure on the APSC to rectify the EBA to address pay issues for DPS staff.

Ongoing negotiations with DPS have wound up and the EBA has gone to members for a vote.

In a statement to Government News, DPS said it has negotiated in good faith on the proposed EBA with staff and unions and would review the staff classifications.

“All claims and proposals were genuinely considered within the Australian Government Public Sector Workplace Relations Policy 2023 and advice sought from the Australian Public Service Commission throughout the bargaining process.

“As part of the bargaining negotiations, DPS has undertaken to conduct a review of the classification of staff in the affected areas, which DPS is currently organising.” 

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