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Senator Eric Abetz’s department is forging ahead in hardline negotiations with public servants by offering staff a slightly higher pay rise at the cost of even more of their mates’ jobs.
The Department of Employment’s best pay offer will be 2.8 per cent over three years – a real pay cut because it is well below inflation.
But it would come with another 46 job cuts through natural attrition, a 30-minute longer working week, scrapping the half-day shutdown before Christmas and health allowance, slowing pay progression and making it harder to receive higher duties pay.
This pay increase would be a third less in percentage terms than the controversial pay deal given to Australian Defence Force members which Prime Minister Tony Abbott suggested would set the ceiling for public service negotiations.
The 2.8 per cent option at the Employment Department – 0.8 per cent to 1 per cent annually – would cost the Abbott government $11.7 million over three years while a second cheaper option being considered would cost $7.4 million.
The alternative of 1.7 per cent over three years – or 0.5 per cent to 0.6 per cent annually – would not include the job cuts or longer working week.
About 1800 Employment Department workers had until Monday to give their feedback to managers about the two options.
The department hoped to put forward a formal offer before Christmas and possibly become the first public service employer to send employees to a ballot on a proposed enterprise agreement in this round of Commonwealth bargaining.
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Community and Public Sector Union national secretary Nadine Flood said she expected either of the “mean and nasty” offers put forward would receive a “no” vote from staff.
Staff could potentially then look at going to the Fair Work Commission for permission to take industrial action.
“The two options should not be a distraction – this is similar to what has been put forward in other departments,” Ms Flood said.
“Workers at Employment are already indicating the department’s proposals are completely unacceptable.”
She said the note sent to Employment staff outlining the two options revealed savings made in travel, accommodation, printing, reducing duplication and simplifying business processes would not be counted as productivity measures in bargaining.
Ms Flood said the Australian government was the only major employer in the nation defining productivity as cutting workers’ conditions.
In floating two informal offers the department could be testing a viewpoint put by Senator Abetz in June when he said public servants might want to forgo a pay rise to save their mates’ jobs.
At the time the senator said “regrettably” the higher the pay increases “the more people out the door”.
The federal public service was scheduled to reduce its workforce by 16,500.
The CPSU was preparing its members for potential industrial action across the public service.
Staff at the Department of Human Services have voted in favour of taking industrial action while Department of Veterans Affairs employees were taking part in a ballot.