Australia: Action to protect outsourced public servants

31 October 2012
The Australian government has introduced amendments to the Fair Work Act to protect the entitlements of tens of thousands of state public servants whose jobs are threatened.

“In general terms the amendments mean that when a public sector employee loses their job and there is a transfer of business to a  new employer in the national workplace relations system, the employee will have their conditions and entitlements protected and their prior service recognised,” says Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Bill Shorten in a press release.

The amendments will be introduced in the next sitting of Federal Parliament (October 29 to November 1).

“I am deeply concerned about recent Coalition state government announcements to cut tens of thousands of public sector jobs,” says Bill Shorten, and he continues: “The Commonwealth will not stand idly by and allow employers, including state governments, to cut employee pay and conditions in this way and put accrued entitlements at risk.

“State public sector workers should not be worse off as a result of conservative state governments outsourcing their jobs,” says Shorten.

The Australian Services Union (ASU) has hailed the Federal Government announcement to amend the Fair Work Act to provide for decency at times of public service reform as an important step forward for employees, the government and the public who rely on these important public services.

ASU Assistant National Secretary Greg McLean said, “This is a great outcome for employees and ASU members but it’s also a win for employers as it will be seen as an improved opportunity of staff retention, increased outcomes from skills and training through both interest and less staff turnover, plus an increased focus on workplace change and reform.”

The ASU believes the proposed amendment is an important step forward to creating a modern workforce that is built on skills and training plus treats employees with dignity at the time of change. It will also encourage public services managers, including those in local government and state owned corporations, to look at better management, improved outcome and commitments to the national training agenda, rather just contacting or privatisation of areas they manage.

It reflects many rights that are held by workers in many OECD countries, including those we trade with and negotiate trade agreements with.

It’s also a fantastic opportunity to encourage our best and brightest to remain in the public services provision, and not be forced out by salary and conditions cuts, with their knowledge used for the benefit of all society, not just those that are shareholders in business where the drive is profit for the shareholders not those receiving the services. In this case it’s a real win for those members of the public that receive services from all levels of government.

This is a win that is good for communities, good for governments that invest in training their staff, good for any business that picks up a contracted out or privatised service and good for those that work providing public services at all levels of government and their families who know if the job changes, their families are protected.

“This is the starkest example I have seen between the Labor and Liberal/National agenda,” said Greg McLean.

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