Together Bargaining

Points of Concern

Posted March 1, 2012 by Alex Scott

Union members win pay increases and improvements to conditions through collective bargaining.

Yearly pay increases, or important conditions like public sector job security, don’t come from nowhere – they exist because union members in the Queensland public sector have come together as a collective group to ask for them in a campaign.

Improvements to pay and conditions are important because they make a difference to workers’ lives. The things we focus on – our families, our lifestyle, time off work to relax with friends, job security – are all things that rely on the pay and conditions we win through collective bargaining.

On this page you can find resources about the Core collective bargaining campaign for better pay and conditions in public sector agencies.

WAGES

In 2009 union members secured the highest wage rise in public sector bargaining history – 4.5%, 4% and 4% over 3 years. After this last win the government revised its wages policy down to 2.5% a year. However, a number of public sector agreements finalised in 2011 secured wage increases of at least 3% per year. For example, Health workers won 3%, 3% and 3% over 3 years in their agreement. Increases beyond 2.5% per year have been in exchange for improvements in productivity. In the coming months public sector wages policy will be reviewed and union members can choose to campaign for a higher increase - one that at least keeps pace with the cost of living.

What do you think our wages claim should be?

EMPLOYMENT SECURITY

Maintaining employment security and maximising permanent employment in all areas of the public sector is incredibly important. It is also important that existing jobs and services are not contracted out so that instead of permanent public sector workers there is someone making profit from your essential role in our community. In bargaining in 2009 members won a commitment from government to establish a process to convert temporary employees to permanent status on the basis of agreed criteria. During the lifetime of the current agreement the Public Service Commission has removed these criteria from the Directive and this bargaining round is an opportunity to get it back.

Possible claims around EMPLOYMENT SECURITY are:

  • Ongoing commitment that no worker will be forcibly retrenched
  • Restoring a criteria-based mechanism for conversion of long-term temporary employees to permanent
  • Strong protections for temporary employees, including equal access to all conditions available to permanent employees
  • Automatic conversion to permanent status after 12 months on a continuous (or consecutive) temporary contracts
  • A commitment to no contracting out of jobs or services during the life of the agreement
  • A commitment to only using casual employment or agency staff when absolutely necessary
  • A commitment that the use of external consultants will be minimized.

REDUNDANCIES AND VOLUNTARY SEPARATIONS

As a further point relating to employment security, increasing the entitlements for workers made redundant should be used to discourage government from suggesting redundancies to balance the budget. When workers are offered Voluntary Early Retirement Packages or Voluntary Separation Packages there is always an impact on workers left behind who have to take on extra duties.

Possible claims around REDUNDANCIES AND VOLUNTARY SEPARATIONS are:

  • That redundancy entitlements for workers be increased
  • If a worker is made redundant there will be no restriction on them being re-employed in the Queensland Government following the payment of their redundancy package.

WORKLOAD MANAGEMENT

Excessive workload and resultant fatigue is a serious problem for many workers. Vacancies going unfilled, extra programs with no additional staffing and workers having taken VSPs and not being replaced leads to excessive workloads in many areas. So can adding new technology with no additional training. As an outcome of the Core ’09 agreement, a new workload management guide has been introduced to address workload issues. The effectiveness of this guide in managing workloads has yet to be tested in many workplaces.

Possible claims around WORKLOAD include:

  • Review the implementation and effectiveness of the workload management guide
  • All base-grade vacancies to be filled within 2 weeks of the vacancy arising
  • All other vacancies to be filled within 4 weeks of the vacancy arising
  • Backfilling of staff when officers are on leave for a period of greater than 3 days, regardless of the type of leave
  • Introduction of ‘relief pools’ in every Agency in order to facilitate backfilling.

WORKPLACE CONSULTATION

A commitment from managers to ensuring workers have a say about changes at work is very important. There are many consultative committees under the current bargaining agreement. Some are more successful than others.

Making sure workers have a say at work needs to be the focus of these committees and processes.

Possible claims around CONSULTATION are:

  • Ensuring no worker's conditions are changed without agreement from those workers
  • A requirement to ensure all workers continue to have access to union delegates and union staff
  • Develop standards for the information that must be shared as part of a consultation process and what constitutes genuine consultation
  • Where any worker is to have their physical work location moved more than a reasonable distance from their existing work location those workers are entitled to consultation about the change and also about compensation for the change in circumstances.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND TRAINING

Professional development and training are essential elements in ensuring the Queensland public service continues to be able to deliver quality services to our community. It is also important for workers to feel up to date and valued at work.

Possible claims around PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT and TRAINING are:

  • Ensuring all workers have equal access to appropriate, quality professional development and training funds
  • Professional development allowance for all workers
  • Ensuring all workers have access to paid time off to attend training and professional development
  • Ensuring all workers have access to the AQF additional payments at every increment level where the scheme currently applies
  • Ensuring that the employer pays for any continuing professional development (CPD) that is required to maintain professional or discipline registration, as part of a workers employment.

HOURS OF WORK

Ensuring that workers are paid, or compensated, for every hour you work for Queenslanders is very important. Working excessive hours can lead to stress, poor health outcomes and fatigue - which in turn can lead to lower productivity at work.

Possible claims around HOURS OF WORK are:

  • No loss of hours accrued for any worker
  • Commitment that managers cannot unreasonably refuse applications to take accrued time off
  • Include minimum standards for hours of work policies in the agreement.

LEAVE

Increasingly, agencies are seeking to dictate when members can and do take their annual/recreation leave and how much they can accrue. Taking regular leave is important but workers should be able to have a say in when they take it.

Possible claims around LEAVE are:

  • agreed definition of "excessive" leave
  • agreed process for negotiating timing of leave
  • right to accrue up to 8 weeks leave
  • that workers can only be directed to take leave when their accrual is "excessive".

WORK/LIFE BALANCE INITIATIVES

The Queensland Government has some excellent policies about balancing work and life. However these arrangements are often not accessible due to local management attitudes or lack of awareness of these policies.

Possible claims around WORK/LIFE BALANCE INITIATIVES include:

  • Ongoing commitment by management to assisting workers to balance work and life
  • Managers to not unreasonably refuse requests by workers to access work/life initiatives
  • Right of appeal if refused.

CAREER PATHS AND CLASSIFICATIONS

Often members see the difference between their classification or career path opportunities as something that is unfair in their workplace compared to others. A review of classifications through JEMS was won in the last agreement. However this has not addressed issues around career progression in many areas. Also, ensuring that there are adequate opportunities for all workers to progress up the career path in their Agency is important.

Possible claims around CAREER PATHS and CLASSIFICATIONS include:

  • Increased access to progression between levels in all streams
  • Equitable access to higher duties and relieving opportunities.

MAINTENANCE AND IMPROVEMENT OF ALLOWANCES

Allowances paid to workers for undertaking special duties or working shift-work are very important conditions. There are also existing uniform and laundry allowances for some workers.

Possible claims around ALLOWANCES include:

  • Increase allowances annually by CPI or the percentage wage increase won, whichever is greater.

RURAL AND REMOTE INCENTIVES

Public sector workers play an important role in remote and rural communities by providing vital infrastructure and services. Living and working in these areas though can create difficulties for workers and their families – difficulties they would not face if they worked in urban areas. Despite the importance of their roles, the locality allowance paid to workers to offset the higher cost of living of certain locations has not increased in over ten years.

Possible claims around REMOTE AND RURAL AREA INCENTIVES are:

  • An increase in the locality allowance
  • Additional services or benefits to workers in these areas
  • Increased access to government housing or rent assistance.

SUPERANNUATION

Superannuation is an important component of working conditions for public sector workers in Queensland. It is important that the system of employer contributions to superannuation is fair for everyone.

Employer Contribution to Super

In the current Superannuation scheme for public sector workers the employer contributes 12.75% provided the employee also contributes 5% of their salary. This is better than the current national superannuation legislation, the Superannuation Guarantee (SG), in which employers must contribute 9% of an employee’s wage and there is no set amount that employees must contribute. The Federal Government is making changes to the SG to lift it from 9% to 12% by 2020. There is a concern that public sector workers may lose the differential advantage of the current arrangements unless the percentage of the additional employer contribution is increased.

Possible claims around the EMPLOYER CONTRIBUTION are:

  • Increasing employer contributions so that the current differential between employer contributions (12.75%) and the SGC (9%) is maintained, without any corresponding impact on wages.

Superannuation for Shift Workers

Together members who work shift work do not receive employer superannuation contributions on shift penalties, which make up a large part of their income, making it harder for shift workers to save for retirement.

Possible claim for SHIFT WORKERS:

  • Including shift allowances as superannuable income.

Super for members with defined benefit accounts

Currently, workers who belong to the QSuper Defined Benefit scheme have contributions made to their account based on their salary as at 1 July each year and when they retire their final superannuation payout is calculated without taking into account any increase in their salary after 1 July of the previous year.

Possible claims around the DEFINED BENEFIT are:

  • That superannuation contributions be adjusted immediately after changes to an employee's rate of pay
  • Making the final payout for workers’ in defined benefit schemes based on their final salary.

BULLYING

Despite the procedures in place for workplace bullying and harassment in the public sector, reports of workplace bullying to the union office are high. The new complaint management process introduced by the Public Service Commission make it harder for victims of bullying to get action taken and members are reporting to the union office that bullying investigations are taking too long. Despite WHS legislation and the employer’s duty of care, the current practices in the public sector mean that workers have to be able to prove they have been bullied before any action is taken to protect them. However, this is a difficult problem and experts disagree about the best way to solve it.

Possible claims around BULLYING are:

  • Union and employer to utilise an Interest Based Bargaining approach to developing agreed long-term strategies to eliminate bullying
  • A joint member/employer working party to agree and implement sector wide policy in relation to WHS and management of workplace bullying and harassment incidents and allegations
  • A sector wide policy or directive for management action that is to be taken to protect a victim of alleged bullying or harassment during the investigation and even if allegations can't be proven
  • A sector wide standard for the process, communication, and timeframes for resolving bullying complaints and the rights of both the victim and those with allegations made against them.

FAIR TREATMENT AT WORK

Workers are often at their most vulnerable when under investigation in the workplace or subject to a formal process with risks for their ongoing employment. Members have raised concerns about the lack of transparency and fair processes currently being used to conduct workplace investigations, manage complaints, discipline employees and manage medical assessments and medical retirement matters. Current practices do not allow people enough access to support in these processes and rely on management “doing the right thing” rather than proper protection for workers’ rights. Members have said they want these processes to be more transparent and fair for employees.

Possible claims around FAIR TREATMENT AT WORK are:

  • Ensuring all workers who are under investigation or being interviewed have access to a support person who can help protect their rights
  • Investigation processes that are quick and fair
  • Consistent policies, directives and practices that protect workers’ rights to a fair process.

OTHER ISSUES

Not every change that workers wish to see in this agreement has been canvassed on this list. These issues are ones that may impact on all public sector workers. Further issues may be specific to your Agency or occupation. Please take time to note down on your feedback form other points of concern you would like to raise or comments you would like to make about this upcoming bargaining round. Here you can also raise ideas for claims that might be specific to your Agency or occupation.