Labor announces APS plans for workplace relations

We've got big news.

Today Labor's Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Brendan O'Connor, and Shadow Minister for Finance, Jim Chalmers, have announced Labor’s plans for APS workplace relations.  

It is an important moment for the public service. Labor has pledged to take a vastly different approach to workplace relations for the Australian Public Service than the current Coalition policy, and committed to undoing the harm caused to public sector workers and their families by the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government through a years-long wage freeze and large-scale cuts to working conditions, particularly family-friendly conditions.

The statement shows how Labor would implement the detailed policy announced in the ALP policy platform in December, and adds some important new commitments.

The key points are:

  • Wages - Labor has acknowledged the need for real wage increases, and this statement commits to real wage increases based on productivity not on cuts to right and conditions.
  • Bargaining - There will be service-wide bargaining, with common pay and conditions negotiated service wide, and agency-based agreements to do agency specific conditions.
  • Rights - Labor is committed to the rights to representation and to organise, and Labor will restore workers' rights that were stripped from agreements under The Coalition.  

Labor’s statement also makes an important new commitment that “Labor will never use industrial blackmail or draconian policy to delay workers receiving a pay rise.” 

This means that Labor will not use the weapons the Coalition and John Lloyd used, like the ‘no back dating’ rule or making pay rises contingent on cuts to conditions, or other tactics, to delay pay increases and blackmail workers. This commitment from Labor would make a real difference to how bargaining operates.  

The statement also makes a couple of other important points:

Fixing the mess – The Coalition will leave behind a bargaining mess and it will take time to fix. Labor commits to reducing the fragmentation of APS pay and conditions – and this means using service-wide bargaining to bring the APS back together.

Addressing inequities – Labor also commit to addressing the inequities arising from what has happened under the Coalition – where some of us have managed only 6% while others got 12%. Labor understands that some members had no choice other than voting no and missing out on pay in order to protect fundamental workplace rights, like parents and carers in DHS facing losing critical family-friendly conditions. Again, fixing that problem will not be easy but Labor have committed to acting on it. We will have more discussions with Labor if they are elected on May 18.

Interim arrangements are needed: Labor recognises that there is a lot of work for a new government to do with the APS to be ready to bargain. This is especially relevant to members in agencies who were bargaining before the election was called and those due to start in 2019. If elected Labor will work with us to develop interim arrangements as a preparation for service wide bargaining. 

The statement also includes the key points, previously announced, of Labor’s commitments to secure APS jobs. These jobs commitments also have a direct link to bargaining outcomes. We know employers use labour hire to undercut enterprise agreement pay and conditions. And every worker moved to labour hire is also a worker moved outside the coverage of our agreements. By scrapping the cap and moving labour hire to APS employment, the Labor commitments will help us rebuild our bargaining position and deny agencies the easy anti-union strategy of sacking union members and replacing them with a labour hire company. This is good news for the workers in labour hire and for those in direct APS employment.

You can read their full statement here and the Canberra Times article here.