APS capabilty inquiry

A ‘wicked problem’ with a worker-led solution

Representatives from your union this week gave evidence before a Senate inquiry into the current capability of the Australian Public Service to deliver for our communities.

We are holding the government to account over staffing levels, workloads, wages and conditions, and the overuse of labour hire as an employment model in the APS over the last decade.

Earlier this year CPSU members forced the Government’s hand on abolishing the service-wide average staffing level cap, but while some agencies like the Department of Veterans' Affairs are using this opportunity to give public service jobs to labour hire workers, the roles remain temporary.

This week we fronted Parliament and told the Government that that is not good enough.

A ‘wicked problem’

CPSU representatives appearing before the Senate countered the Morrison Government’s claims that labour hire is used primarily for short term work or specialised roles.

We told the inquiry what you have told us – that in most agencies labour hire is used for normal ongoing APS work because government policies have meant that an agency is unable to employ people directly.

We were joined in our calls for secure jobs that can deliver for the community by organisations such as the Defence Force Welfare Association, which called out DVA for a growing reliance on labour hire arrangements leading to delays and longer wait times for veterans.

We pointed to the situation at Services Australia to show the inquiry that the over-reliance on ICT contractors instead of in-house public service workers has failed to build longer term capabilities, and is costing the community in terms of wait times and doubling handling.

We told the Senate that shockingly there are now fewer permanent staff at Services Australia than before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 7,000 permanent jobs cut since 2013. We demonstrated that Services Australia used insecure workers when permanent staff told the Agency that the government’s robodebt scheme was unlawful.

We called for proper funding and resourcing and an increase to permanent staffing in agencies like the NDIA, where currently over a quarter of the agency’s workforce is labour hire and earning around $10 less an hour for the same job as their public service colleagues.

This insecure work model coupled with unworkable performance targets for staff across the board is leading to high staff turnover and worse outcomes for participants.

For staff at the watchdog organisations for disability and aged care services, the NDISQSC and ACQSC, it’s a similar story with overwhelming case numbers and insufficient and insecure staffing arrangements.

What’s the solution?

Moving labour hire workers to employment in the public service will provide thousands of Australians with jobs they can count on while helping to rebuild the capacity of our public service.

Despite labour hire workers generally being paid less, expensive fees to labour hire firms means it costs the Australian public more than providing these workers with direct APS employment. It’s bad for workers, bad for the APS, and bad for the community. Now more than ever, people need good, secure jobs, with wages and conditions they can rely on.

Advocacy in the parliament and creating political pressure in the media must go hand in hand with workers organising in workplaces. There are two things you can do today to fight back against the privatisation by stealth of our public services.

  • Sign up to the Proud to be Public Campaign.
  • Talk to your colleagues about why you’re a CPSU member, what you believe we can achieve when we work together, and ask them to join you today.
  • If you are employed via a labour hire company, please register here to join our campaign to give labour hire workers currently doing public service work access to a permanent APS job.

We will continue campaigning - in workplaces, Parliament, the media and in the community - for a bigger public service that delivers better outcomes for the community and is a better place to work.


CPSU submissions to the inquiry are linked below

Summary of CPSU findings and recommendations.