Circular 2013/07: Consultation in preparation for bargaining

Last updated: 18 Oct 2013

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1. Enterprise agreements in the Australian Public Service reach their nominal expiry date on 30 June 2014. The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) has been approached by a number of agencies seeking advice on consultation arrangements in advance of bargaining. This circular provides advice to agencies to facilitate consultation.

2. It is Australian Government policy that agencies facilitate employee access to their unions in a fair and reasonable way. The Australian Public Service Bargaining Framework and associated guidelines (APS Bargaining Framework) requires that agencies and workplace delegates deal with each other in good faith. The APS Bargaining Framework sets out the minimum facilities which agencies should provide to enable workplace consultations; many APS agencies have also included such facilitative provisions in their enterprise agreements.

3. Under the policy set out at Attachment C of the APS Bargaining Framework, the rights of workplace delegates include but are not limited to:

  1. Reasonable paid time to provide information to and seek feedback from employees in the workplace on workplace relations matters at the agency during normal working hours;
  2. The right to email employees in their workplace to provide information and seek feedback, subject to individual employees exercising a right to ‘opt out’ of such communications;
  3. Reasonable access to agency facilities (including telephone, facsimile, photocopying, internet and email facilities, meeting rooms, lunch rooms, tea rooms and other areas where employees meet) for the purpose of carrying out work as a delegate and consulting with members and other interested employees and the union, subject to agency policies and protocols; and
  4. Reasonable paid time during normal working hours to consult with other delegates and union officials in the workplace, and receive advice and assistance from union staff and officials in the workplace.

4. Consistent with the obligations outlined above, it is the Australian Government’s expectation that APS agencies will provide an opportunity at this time, for unions to receive feedback from employees in preparation for bargaining for replacement enterprise agreements.

5. In accordance with the provisions of an agency’s enterprise agreement; the rights of workplace delegates as outlined in Attachment C of the APS Bargaining Framework; any agreed protocols and policies and the agency’s custom and practice; and having regard to the impact on the efficient operations of the agency and the provision of Commonwealth services, an agency should consider providing:

  1. Access to reasonable paid time for delegates to provide information to and seek feedback from employees in the workplace regarding workplace relations matters relevant to the next round of APS bargaining; and
  2. Access to reasonable paid time to employees to participate in discussions with union representatives regarding workplace relations matters relevant to the next round of APS bargaining.

6. Agencies should discuss the proposed approach to these consultations (including timing) with unions and union delegates, seeking to resolve any issues collaboratively.

APSC contact

7. Should you require further information or assistance on this matter, please contact the Workplace Relations Policy team on 02 6202 3758 or email workplacerelations@apsc.gov.au.

 

Stephen Sedgwick
Australian Public Service Commissioner

25 July 2013