The recent restructuring of the National Gallery of Australia resulted in Work Level Standards being used to reclassify some positions downwards. Despite staff performing effectively, the National Gallery argued these workers were being paid more than their duties demanded.

As part of the consultation process with the National Gallery, your CPSU representatives made the case that these workers were being paid appropriately. However, if the restructure were to proceed, that it would be unfair and inappropriate for affected workers to suddenly earn less simply because their employer chooses to declassify the position’s role and title. That was especially true when the employee’s duties were not significantly changing.

Because of our representations, affected workers who have had their position declassified in the restructure will receive salary maintenance at their position’s original classification rate.

This a great win for union members and shows what we can do when we work together.

Why is this important?

The curatorial review and the subsequent declassifications were part of a 2020 redundancy process, where 10% of National Gallery staff lost their jobs. This meant that about a quarter of permanent National Gallery staff have become redundant since 2017. The NGA was facing a situation where it simply couldn’t cut any more staff if the Gallery was to function properly. We believe the declassification method was a new idea intending to save money without losing essential workers.

CPSU members’ involvement and advocacy pursuing the subsequent National Gallery outcome has a much broader impact than the workers whose long-term salaries have been cut. This outcome sets a precedent for other agencies considering ways to balance fiscal shortfalls.

Declassification of performing workers is not a feasible short-term solution for budget shortfalls.

Any worker declassified because of a restructure will receive salary maintenance at the original classification rate, consistent with EA protections. For most APS agencies this will be for more than a year for older workers and seven months for those under 45. This outcome reflects job protection provisions defended by the CPSU for years and equates to protections offered employees identified as potentially excess, even though there is a position for the worker.

What’s next?

The CPSU is proud to have a strong membership at the National Gallery.

The next step is to produce a risk assessment of areas suffering job cuts. This will mean staff can proceed with daily work confident that the National Gallery will not expect unsafe or inappropriate work methods caused by a lack of staff numbers.

The union is committed to our continuing work with the National Gallery, and all cultural institution managements, to find ways of improving the fiscal position of the institutions that do not include job cuts or declassifications.