Senate inquiry into impact of public sector pay wars


A senate inquiry will attempt to uncover the impact of the epic battle between the federal government and the major public sector union over pay and conditions, which has been dragging on for three years.

The Education and Employment References Committee will explore the impact of the extended dispute, which leaves around 100,000 Commonwealth public servants without an enterprise bargaining agreement – about two-thirds of the APS workforce – and includes departmental giant Human Services.

It will focus on areas such as service provision, staff morale and family life.

The terms of reference will try to quantify the impact of the workplace bargaining stand-off on:

  • service provision, particularly in regional Australia and on vulnerable and elderly people
  • Australia’s tourism industry and international reputation from international port and airport strikes
  • agency productivity and staff morale
  • workplace relations in the Commonwealth public sector
  • working conditions and industrial rights of Commonwealth public sector employees
  • employee access to workplace flexibility, particularly for employees with family or caring responsibilities
  • employees’ working conditions and industrial rights, including access to enforceable domestic and family violence leave

The inquiry will also examine the effect of “an expanded role” for the responsible Minister in the government’s workplace bargaining policy.

It is a tight turnaround. Submissions close on October 27 and the committee will report by November 30. There will be public inquiries in between the two dates.

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said she looked forward to hearing from Minister Cash and APSC Public Service Commissioner John Lloyd.

“This is an important opportunity to find out why the government has blocked progress on bargaining for so long and why the Minister and the Public Service Commission have refused to find a sensible solution to a dispute which has run for over 1000 days.” MS Flood said.

“This is the first Australian government in thirty years which has been unable to conclude public sector bargaining and that has tried to starve workers into accepting cuts to family friendly and other rights and which has refused to sit down at the table and negotiate outcomes in good faith. That’s had a direct impact on services for the Australian community.”

Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Brendan O’Connor welcomed the inquiry and called it ‘an important avenue to bring the concerns of APS employees to the public’s attention.’

“You can tell a lot about a government by how it treats its workers – Malcolm Turnbull must be judged by what he does for workers, and how he treats his own workforce, not what he says,” Mr O’Connor said.

“Labor believes in an approach to enterprise bargaining that actually improves the capability of staff and provides fairness in the workplace, work-life balance and secure, meaningful jobs. An approach that does not force agencies to strip rights and conditions.”

Meanwhile, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection is locked in negotiations with the Community and Public Sector Union in an attempt to reach an agreement on pay and conditions before the Fair Work Commission steps in and decides the verdict for them under compulsory arbitration.

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