This article by Noel Towell was originally posted in The Canberra Times on 21 November 2016. Click here to read the original.
Senior bureaucrats from the Defence Department are preparing to take to the air for a nationwide charm offensive in a bid to persuade 18,500 public servants to accept Defence’s new proposed workplace deal.
Another 20,000 public servants at the Australian Taxation Office will soon be voting too, after their bosses sought permission to try again to persuade their workforce to accept a deal developed under the Coalition’s controversial workplace bargaining policy.
Defence bosses will blitz their way through 35 “road shows” at departmental offices and military installations in every mainland state and territory as they try to turn around two close defeats for a workplace agreement for the next three years.
But the department’s acting human resources boss Richard Oliver told staff, who have not had a general pay rise sine 2013, that they should not hold out hope of back pay or to take their dispute to arbitration.
“The pay offer remains the best available,” Mr Oliver wrote.
“There is no option for backpay under the bargaining policy.
“In August the government confirmed the bargaining policy would not change.
“I understand some staff are of the view that if there is a ‘no’ vote the department will progress to arbitration. I would like to be clear that this is not the case.
“Arbitration is not available where a proposed agreement is voted down, no matter how many times. Instead Defence is likely to recommence bargaining.”
Workplace unions will oppose the latest proposal with the biggest union, the CPSU, confirming it will campaign for no-votes both at Defence and Tax.
Technical union Professionals Australia, which represents many Defence scientists and engineers, said it would be pushing for arbitration immediately in the event of a third no-vote.
“If Defence goes down for a third time we would be calling on Defence to agree to FWC arbitration,” union official Dave Smith said.
“The costs of this process are too high and it’s had a significant, detrimental impact on the workforce.
“Good people are going and continuing to leave and the organisation is over reliant on contractors.
“The department is about to run another 35 or so sessions trying to sell their dud deal – flying SES [senior executive service] around the country that should be focused on implementing the first Principles Review.”
Tax Office public servants will be voting on their employer’s latest proposal between December 8 and December 14.
It will be third official time of asking after previous proposals were defeated in December 2015 and again in May 2016 by margins of 85 per cent and 71 per cent respectively.
A plan for an earlier vote, in February 2015, was dropped in the face of negative feedback on the proposed deal.
The Tax Office faces opposition again this time with the main workplace union, the CPSU, and the smaller Australian Services Union pledging a no-campaign.
“I’m confident this proposal will be roundly rejected because it continues to make substantial cuts to our rights at work,” union official Jeff Lapidos said.