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Australian Government employment workplace relations

Achievements

During 2013–14, the Commission's achievements included:

  • developing the Australian Government Public Sector Workplace Bargaining Policy, which will underpin productive workplace arrangements across the Commonwealth public sector
  • publishing the 2013 APS Remuneration Report, which captures data from all APS agencies to inform policy development and agency remuneration practices
  • developing the APS classification guide and APS-wide work-level standards for non-SES employees, to support agencies in classification management decisions.

Support for agencies following machinery of government changes

After the change of government in September 2013, there was a major rearrangement of Australian Government agencies (see page 35–6 for details). A significant body of work for the Commission in 2013–14 was providing support to agencies in implementing the machinery of government changes, and in particular assisting agencies with staffing arrangements for employee terms and conditions.

Section 72 of the PS Act provides for the movement of APS employees affected by an administrative rearrangement, including an administrative rearrangement resulting from a change to the Administrative Arrangements Order.

As a result of the reallocation of a number of functions, Senator the Hon Eric Abetz, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, made two determinations under section 24(3) of the PS Act—one covering SES employees and one covering non-SES employees. The determinations provided that, as an interim measure, all employees who were to be transferred because of the machinery of government changes would continue to have the same terms and conditions of employment (including remuneration) as they had immediately before the making of the Administrative Arrangements Order.

The Commission is continuing to work with agencies to ensure that employees are not affected by unintended consequences following the machinery of government changes.

2014 APS bargaining round

The Australian Government Public Sector Workplace Bargaining Policy was released on 28 March 2014. The new policy represents important progress in ensuring that agency workplace arrangements meet community expectations, are affordable and are underpinned by genuine productivity initiatives. The bargaining policy sets out the parameters for Commonwealth public sector employers who are negotiating new enterprise agreements. The policy applies to all APS and non-APS agencies, including government business enterprises, and to staff employed by the parliamentary departments and under the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act 1984.

Bargaining is at an early stage and the Commission understands that 52 agencies had commenced bargaining as at 30 June 2014. The Commission is providing support and advice to agencies on the bargaining policy to promote effective agreement-making across the sector. The Commission's services to agencies include providing client relationship managers to manage the provision of policy advice, facilitating cross-agency meetings and training programs, and providing a range of best practice advice.

Under the bargaining policy, the Commissioner is responsible for assessing whether remuneration arrangements being proposed by agencies in bargaining are affordable within an agency's existing budget and offset by genuine productivity gains. The Commission will continue to provide advice and support to agencies as they negotiate new agreements under the bargaining policy.

Modernisation of Australian Government employment awards

The Fair Work Commission (FWC) has been tasked with modernising the federal system of awards. The aim is to ensure, among other things, that there is a simple, easy to understand, stable and sustainable modern award system that, together with the National Employment Standards, provides a fair and relevant minimum safety net of terms and conditions.

APS Award

In December 2013, the Commission, on behalf of the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, submitted an application to the FWC to modernise the Australian Public Service Award 1998 (APS Award). The FWC directed that the parties to the application for the modernisation of the APS Award attend a conciliation conference, which was held in April 2014. A second conciliation conference was held in June 2014. The parties are continuing to hold discussions on the draft award in preparation for consideration of the matter by a full bench of the FWC.

Non-APS agencies

Award coverage in the non-APS public sector is more complex than in the APS, since non-APS agencies have varying degrees of award coverage. Applications were made to the FWC to modernise enterprise awards covering 28 non-APS Commonwealth employers. The FWC has directed that consideration of the APS Award will commence before consideration of other Commonwealth public sector awards. The Commission is continuing to work with non-APS employers to ensure a streamlined approach to award coverage in the Commonwealth employment sector.

APS Remuneration Report

The Commission conducts an annual census of APS remuneration as at 31 December each year. The resulting APS Remuneration Report provides APS agencies with agency-specific and APS-wide data that informs their remuneration practices.

The APS Remuneration Report 2013 was released on 13 June 2014. The report provides remuneration information for the 2013 calendar year, including base salary and other remuneration-related benefits and payments. It provides information on remuneration by classification level as well as changes in remuneration compared to the previous year. The 2013 report was based on the remuneration data of 2,622 SES employees and 148,084 non-SES employees from 110 APS agencies.

Workplace relations policy advice and support

The Commission provides advice and support to Australian Government employers on a wide range of workplace relations matters, including the application of the Fair Work Act 2009, the Long Service Leave (Commonwealth Employees) Act 1976 and the Maternity Leave (Commonwealth Employees) Act 1973.

The Commission has been involved in providing advice on the proposed new paid parental leave scheme and its possible interactions with current employee entitlements to parental and maternity leave. The Commission continues to track the progress of the proposed scheme so that it can develop implementation strategies for Commonwealth employers to ensure an efficient transition to new arrangements in 2015.

The Commission released five advices in 2013–14 for subscribers of the Allowance Subscriptions Service. Since its inception in 1999, the service has provided advice, on a cost-recovery basis, to Commonwealth agencies on adjustments to a range of allowances such as travel, motor vehicle and temporary accommodation.

The Commission has also continued its role of representing the interests of the Commonwealth in the advancement of salary and allowance matters for members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF). These matters are advanced in a manner consistent with the policies of the government relating to workplace relations and remuneration standards.

The Commission works collaboratively with the ADF, including the Defence Force Advocate, to review and develop cases referred to the Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal. In 2013–14, this included commencing phase two of the review of salary-related allowances. These allowances compensate ADF members for the restrictions and hardships associated with military service.

APS classification review

In 2012–13, the Commission finalised a review of APS classifications, which identified the need for increased consistency and rigour in classification management practices across the APS. During 2013–14 the Commission, through implementing the review recommendations, established a more robust APS-wide classification framework, providing a strong anchor to form work-level equivalency for each classification level across the service.

In October 2013, the Commission published the APS classification guide, which is aimed at both line managers and human resource practitioners. The guide supports the framework and principles underlying classification management and provides practical guidance and advice.

APS work-level standards covering the non-SES classifications were also published to provide a broad common base to assess the diverse range of APS roles and functions. To support the introduction of the standards, the Commission developed an APS role evaluation tool and supporting guidance. These materials will support a common approach to determining the appropriate classification level of roles across the APS, as measured against the APS work-level standards. The role evaluation tool has been trialled in agencies and will be available in early 2014–15.

APS Executive Remuneration Management Policy

The Commission has responsibility for administering, and ensuring compliance with, the APS Executive Remuneration Management Policy.  The policy was developed as a result of the Remuneration Tribunal's review of the office of secretary (December 2011), which recommended that the pay relativity between secretaries and the most senior members of their staff be reset to better reflect their respective roles and responsibilities. The policy requires agency heads to gain the agreement of the Commissioner before offering remuneration above a certain notional amount to staff employed under the PS Act. The notional amount is a percentage of the base remuneration of the secretaries' classification structure.

Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal

The Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal was established in 1984 to determine the pay and allowances of members of the ADF, considering the special nature of defence force service. The tribunal's functions, as set out in section 58H of the Defence Act 1903, are to:

  • inquire into and determine the salaries and relevant allowances to be paid to members of the ADF
  • inquire into and make determinations on prescribed matters that have been referred to the tribunal.

The Commission provides secretariat services to the tribunal. In 2013–14, the secretariat provided support in proceedings before the tribunal related to the remuneration and entitlements of members of the ADF. The tribunal, while not required to do so under legislation, reports annually on its activities on its website.

Remuneration Tribunal

The secretariat to the Remuneration Tribunal supports the tribunal—an independent statutory body established under the Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973—to inquire into and determine, or provide advice on, remuneration and related matters for a range of Commonwealth offices. The secretariat is provided by the Commission and supports the tribunal's work by researching, analysing and providing advice and briefings on matters to be considered by the tribunal and by providing associated administrative support.

The tribunal is required by the Remuneration Tribunal Act to report annually to the Minister. Details of the work of the tribunal are provided in that report.