Principles and objectives of APS bargaining
The Commission received and has considered the content of 28 submissions from APS agencies and Unions to produce these principles. These are designed to guide the process and outcomes for APS bargaining.
These principles include:
- Model employer
- Unified Commonwealth public service
- Mobility, attraction and retention
- Administrative efficiency
- Fairness and equity
- Bargaining for pay and other conditions for employees will recognise the APS’s core responsibility of developing policy and delivering services on behalf of the Government to the Australian people. Bargaining will support the goals of a more inclusive and diverse workplace, recognising the need for the public service to reflect the community it serves.
- Bargained outcomes will assist the APS in attracting and retaining the best and brightest employees to serve the Australian community.
- Bargaining conduct and outcomes will reflect best practice and recognise the role of the Government in setting the high standard of employer behaviours it champions. This includes exemplifying model behaviour in bargaining through demonstrated respect for the good faith bargaining requirement in the Fair Work Act 2009.
- There will be transparency about the reasons for policy decisions underpinning the development of the workplace relations bargaining policy.
Unified commonwealth public service
- A key goal for service-wide bargaining is progress towards greater commonality of pay and other conditions.
- An initial focus will be on conditions where disparity currently acts as a barrier to employees working flexibly and seamlessly together on delivering the services and policy solutions to the Australian community.
- Sensible alignment of common conditions is expected to produce significant productivity, while allowing agencies and their employees to also benefit from targeted agency-level negotiations.
- The Commonwealth is made up of a diverse range of agency employers which may benefit from better alignment of conditions of service.
- Many Commonwealth employees are employed under agency specific enabling legislation (i.e. the ‘non-APS’). The non-APS is not in scope for service-wide bargaining in the current bargaining round. Arrangements to cover bargaining in these agencies are being developed in parallel to the service-wide bargaining process.
- Where reasonably practical, service-wide bargaining in the APS will include measures to assist in mobility between the APS and non-APS.
Mobility, attraction and retention
- Outcomes in any service-wide approach to bargaining will consider the need to support the attraction, development and retention of an appropriately skilled and experienced workforce. In an evolving and competitive marketplace, the public sector must have a competitive employee value proposition.
- The Commonwealth’s bargaining approach must ensure negotiated outcomes reduce barriers to movement between agencies, primarily within the APS, but also across the broader Commonwealth public sector where this is appropriate and desirable.
- To retain skills and attract talent, the public sector must remain competitive as an employer. A core challenge is that while the public sector has historically been a leader in offering flexible working conditions, in a post-COVID environment, it’s positioning in this area is under increased competition from large private sector employers. Such pressure is anticipated to increase over time.
- Entry into Commonwealth employment is entry into a network of potential career pathways, rather than into a single organisation or job role. Outcomes of any service‑wide approach to bargaining will focus on reducing barriers to movement both within the APS and throughout the Commonwealth system.
- Bargaining will also drive the Government’s desire for the development of a set of common terms and conditions, while still facilitating agency specific requirements, where the unique nature of agency operations or occupations require.
- Over time, bargained outcomes will allow employee candidates to assess different agencies on the suitability of available roles or the type of work performed, rather than different pay and conditions acting as a disincentive to mobility.
- Bargained outcomes are to remove barriers to entry by being future ready and fit for purpose, to enable the attraction of remote and flexible talent.
- Bargained outcomes will seek to enable increased administrative efficiency in the Commonwealth.
- Bargained outcomes will support the development of the Government Enterprise Resource Planning (GovERP) platform, including by looking to increase commonality in conditions to more effectively enable agencies to adopt common ICT and payroll systems. This will assist in obtaining economies of scale.
- Bargained outcomes are to facilitate commonalities which reduce the administrative burden of recruitment activities and Machinery of Government changes.
- Bargained outcomes are to result in productivity gains at the service-wide level.
- The Commission will work with agencies to balance service-wide efficiencies with agency‑specific operational requirements.
Fairness and equity
- Bargained outcomes are to seek to reduce fragmentation in pay throughout the Commonwealth public sector. Ensuring simple, standardised pay ranges and conditions — linked to equal pay for equal work — is good corporate practice.
- Noting that the current state of pay dispersion has occurred over decades, and mindful of current budget pressures, reducing wage dispersion will likely be a gradual process over multiple bargaining rounds.
- From time to time, in-demand occupations will experience heightened remunerative competition. Recognising the labour market constantly evolves, and mindful of the need for longer-term equity, any mechanisms to address short-term fluctuations are to be facilitated through temporary individual flexibilities, rather than embedded in workplace arrangements.
- Consideration will be given to how bargaining might contribute to a more inclusive and future-focused Commonwealth workforce.
- Enterprise agreements need to support the ability of Commonwealth agencies to function efficiently, including by sustaining capacity and capability requirements.
- Bargained outcomes for agencies and employees will represent fair and fiscally responsible use of taxpayers’ money, in line with community expectations.
- Bargained outcomes are to be forward leaning, but in-step with the expectations of the Australian community.
- Outcomes of service-wide bargaining must deliver for the APS now and into the future.