State of the Service Roadshow: Your Questions Answered
We thank APS staff who submitted questions relating to service-wide bargaining at the State of the Service Roadshow (SOSR) events in March. We’ve taken the time to answer your frequently asked questions.
What is the purpose of APS-wide bargaining and how will it proceed?
The purpose of APS-wide bargaining is to support the APS to become a model employer through genuine bargaining that improves pay and conditions.
APS bargaining aims to improve consistency and fairness of conditions across the APS.
The first round of APS-wide bargaining aims to take initial steps to reduce pay fragmentation across APS agencies, and provide a pay increase for all employees.
Previously, each APS agency has bargained separately with unions and other employee bargaining representatives.
Under the new policy released on 28 March 2023 2023, APS bargaining will follow two processes to bargain new enterprise agreements:
- APS-wide bargaining aims to improve commonality in pay and conditions across the APS.
- Agency-level bargaining enables agencies to negotiate terms that are necessary to support their needs and operating model.
APS employees will vote on their agency’s proposed enterprise agreement once – at the end of agency-level bargaining. This agreement will include common conditions negotiated during APS-wide bargaining.
How long is APS bargaining expected to take? Will agencies get a new agreement this year or will it be longer?
We are committed to proceeding efficiently with bargaining to ensure pay increases are provided in a timely matter.
The APS-wide bargaining process is to be completed by the end of July 2023, with agency level negotiations to continue for a time. You can see the current proposed bargaining schedule here.
Final agreements will become effective once bargaining is complete and a positive vote at the agency-level by staff endorses the agreement.
Agreements will include those service-wide conditions reached and agreed to as part of APS-wide bargaining. After a positive ballot from employees in your agency, the agreement is sent to the Fair Work Commission for approval and come into effect generally 7 days after this approval.
We expect most enterprise bargaining agreements to be finalised and operational by the end of 2023 or early 2024.
How will the APSC support good faith bargaining in the upcoming bargaining round?
We are committed to good faith bargaining and upholding our obligations in the Fair Work Act.
We will genuinely consider all proposals from unions and employee bargaining representatives and seek outcomes that are balanced, that are employee focused, and recognises the needs of APS agencies.
Our focus will be to seek agreement on:
- a pay increase for APS employees
- a mechanism to reduce pay fragmentation
- improve the consistency and fairness of conditions across APS agencies.
What are the prospects to increase pay scale consistency between departments?
Pay fragmentation across the APS has occurred over decades and will take time to fix, likely over multiple bargaining rounds.
Taking initial steps to reduce pay fragmentation across APS agencies is a primary objective of the APS-wide bargaining process.
The first round of APS-wide bargaining will seek agreement on a mechanism to take initial steps towards improving pay fragmentation overtime.
Will we get one agreement for all APS agencies or have separate agency agreements at the end of APS bargaining?
Enterprise Agreements will continue to be agreed to and applied at an agency level. However, agency-level agreements will be required to include any common conditions negotiated during APS-wide bargaining. APS employees will vote once. This vote will be on an agency’s enterprise agreement at the end of the APS-wide and agency-level bargaining process.
Why do small pay gaps between some APS pay levels exist and will APS bargaining seek to fix this?
The differences between pay scales in agencies has evolved over decades, and historically has been determined by each agency’s budget and having regard to Australian Government workplace relations policies of the day. Pay scales between classifications will be considered during APS-wide bargaining. Meaningful pay increases between classifications is important to encourage career progression.
Will APS Bargaining encourage a consistent approach to EL time off in lieu (TOIL)?
Executive level time off in lieu (TOIL) will be considered in APS-wide bargaining. This means we will discuss this condition in good faith with unions and enterprise bargaining representatives.
Is a four-day week being considered?
It is being considered for discussion during APS-wide bargaining. We expect it to be tabled as a claim when we discuss flexible work arrangements. As we represent all APS agencies during APS-wide bargaining, we need to consider common conditions and their impact on an agency’s operational requirements.
We expect a trial of a 4 day work week will be considered for discussion during APS-wide bargaining. It is likely to be tabled as a claim when we discuss flexible work arrangements.
What can the APS do to bring in the best talent and be an employer of choice that is competitive with private sector and other public sector employers? How will APS bargaining support this?
Pay and conditions are an important element to establishing the APS as a model employer. APS bargaining will take steps to improve pay and conditions. The Government has recognised the need for pay and conditions to better align to the current labour market conditions, but has also recognised this needs to be balanced with the fiscal responsibility they have to all Australians.
Will APS bargaining address inflation and cost of living pressures, and the decline in real wages?
A fair and reasonable pay increase for all employees will be discussed during the APS bargaining process. The short-term strategy is to discuss the pay increase for all APS employees in good faith with unions and Enterprise Bargaining Representatives. The Government has considered the current economic conditions and it will form the rationale for the pay offer during bargaining.
Is there any update on the Maternity Act Review? Is the APS actively considering or advocating for equal maternity and paternity leave?
The Maternity Act Review is now in its final stages. The APS bargaining process will consider any proposed changes and will discuss these in good faith during bargaining.
Will the APS consider standardising the length of hours in the work week?
Hours of work will be considered during APS bargaining and we will consider this in good faith.
Why do APS agencies have different flexible work practices?
Every APS agency has differences in pay and conditions, including flexible work practices. Flexible working arrangements will be considered during APS-wide bargaining. We know this condition is a top priority for APS employees, as raised in the APS bargaining survey. We hope to discuss this with unions and enterprise bargaining representatives in good faith and seek commonality on flexible working arrangements.
What has been the level of engagement so far with the bargaining process from agencies and employees?
We’re experiencing high levels of engagement in the APS bargaining process. We have undertaken significant consultation with unions, APS agencies and APS employees. Since November 2022, agencies and unions have constructively provided advice to inform the APS-wide bargaining process. About 30 per cent of the service responded to the APS bargaining survey we distributed to APS employees in late January. Through this survey, employees told us which matters are most important to them and what should be common.
How will regional APS staff be represented in the APS Bargaining process?
Enterprise bargaining representatives can nominate from anywhere in Australia, this recognises the geographically disperse nature of the APS. All APS employees, including those in regional and remote areas will also get the opportunity to vote on their agencies enterprise agreement.
The Hierarchy and Classification Review released in October 2022 proposed new classifications and specialist designations. Will APS Bargaining address these recommendations?
The outcomes of the Hierarchy and Classification Review won’t be introduced through APS-wide bargaining. The primary objectives of the APS-wide bargaining process is to seek agreement on:
- a pay increase for all employees
- improve the consistency and fairness of conditions across APS agencies
- take initial steps to reduce pay fragmentation across APS agencies.