The purpose of this Advice is to inform Australian Public Service (APS) agencies and non-APS Commonwealth Authorities who are subject to the Australian Government Employment Bargaining Framework (AGEBF) of revisions to the AGEBF which take effect as of 1 September 2009.
Revised Australian Government Employment Bargaining Framework
2. The recent commencement of the Fair Work Act 2009 (FW Act) has required consequential amendments to the AGEBF and the associated Supporting Guidance document to ensure consistency with the new legislative requirements.
3. A copy of the revised Supporting Guidance has been provided with this advice.
4. As with the previous edition of the AGEBF and Supporting Guidance, the AGEBF applies to all Australian Public Service (APS) agencies and Members of Parliament Staff (MoPS). Non-APS Commonwealth Authorities and other Australian Government employers should continue to apply the AGEBF as previously directed by their responsible Minister. Where the responsible Minister does not have the power to direct a non-APS Commonwealth Authority to apply the AGEBF, those Authorities are encouraged to voluntarily apply the AGEBF.
5. The AGEBF does not apply to Government Business Enterprises (GBEs) or the Australian Defence Force. However, GBEs are encouraged to apply the Government’s workplace relations policies, other than those explicitly relating solely to APS agencies.
6. In addition to the amendments required to ensure consistency with the FW Act, there are additional key changes as outlined below.
APS wage outcomes
7. The Government has decided to require a greater degree of assurance that APS enterprise agreements are underpinned by genuine, quantifiable productivity improvements and are affordable from within each department or agency’s existing Budget allocation.
8. From 1 September 2009, APS agencies proposing new or varied enterprise agreements which have an Average Annualised Wage Index (AAWI) in excess of 3.0 per cent (as calculated by DEEWR) will be subject to enhanced scrutiny:
- by DEEWR in relation to productivity improvements. APS agencies in this category are required to provide DEEWR with sufficient documentation to ensure that productivity improvements underpinning the proposed salary increases are measurable, provable and deliverable. This may include (but is not limited to)
- the estimated cost of the agreement and its component parts;
- savings from the underpinning productivity changes in total and from individual initiatives; and
- workplace relations arrangements and/or initiatives which underpin the productivity initiatives.
- by the Department of Finance and Deregulation (Finance) to ensure that there is no leaching of program funding to fund improvements in wages.
9. Agencies should be aware that DEEWR and/or Finance will seek further information and advice regarding the productivity initiatives underpinning the proposed improvements to salary and conditions where the information in the agreement or advice provided by the agency is considered insufficient. Assessments under the AGEBF cannot be finalised until these processes are complete.
10. Agencies proposing new or varied enterprise agreements with an AAWI in excess of 3.0 per cent are to seek the in-principle agreement of their Minister prior to entering into negotiations. In doing so, agencies must demonstrate to their Minister’s satisfaction that there are sufficient measurable, provable and deliverable productivity improvements available to support such an increase, and that no leaching of program funding would be required.
11. Consistent with the requirement under the AGEBF that a Minister may not approve an agreement which cannot be funded from within an agency or authority’s existing budget allocation, new or varied enterprise agreements proposing an AAWI in excess of 3.0% which have been found by DEEWR and/or Finance to not to be supported by productivity savings or leaches funds from program funding cannot be approved by the responsible Minister.
12. In circumstances where the agency Minister proposes to approve an agreement with an AAWI in excess of 3%, and DEEWR and Finance agree that to support the proposed increase, productivity savings can be demonstrated and there is no leaching of program funds, both the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and the Minister for Finance and Deregulation must be advised.
13. APS agencies proposing new or varied enterprise agreements which have an AAWI of 3.0 per cent or less (as calculated by DEEWR) will not be required to provide detailed productivity and affordability details to DEEWR or Finance for review.
14. These requirements will apply to proposed new or varied enterprise agreements not approved by the relevant Minister prior to 1 September 2009.
15. These new approval processes do not apply to non-APS Commonwealth Authorities. Non‑APS Commonwealth Authorities will continue to be obliged to comply with the existing approval arrangements.
16. The Government’s decision does not affect existing agreements which provide for future pay rises.
Common nominal expiry date
17. The Government is considering options for further streamlining of APS terms and conditions.
18. In the interim, the Government has determined that all new APS enterprise agreements are to contain a nominal expiry date of no later than 30 June 2011. This will facilitate a smoother transition to more streamlined arrangements should the Government decide to implement such arrangements, e.g. after the APS Award modernisation process.
19. In exceptional circumstances, APS agencies can seek the approval of their relevant Minister, the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and the Minister for Finance and Deregulation to provide a nominal expiry date beyond 30 June 2011. Any APS agency wishing to pursue this option should seek advice from DEEWR.
Additional requirements to note
20. All agencies should note that the revised AGEBF includes additional requirements applicable to enterprise agreement making and workplace relations arrangements. Briefly, these new requirements include:
- A requirement to adopt the model clauses on consultation, flexibility terms and dispute resolution as provided under the Fair Work Regulations 2009. Alternative clauses may be used where exceptional circumstances apply;
- A requirement to seek the responsible Minister’s in-principle agreement to a proposed bargaining position prior to bargaining offers being made;
- The provision of regular bargaining updates and other information to DEEWR, including seeking DEEWR’s views on any potential or actual industrial disputes;
- A requirement to develop a framework, in consultation with relevant employee representatives, which outlines responsibilities and obligations in relation to delegates’ rights within the workplace; and
- Changes to arrangements for retention periods arising from the forthcoming implementation of the National Employment Standards.
Further information and advice
21. DEEWR will be conducting information sessions from Monday 14 September 2009 for agencies to explain the features of the revised AGEBF. Further details and Invitations to attend will be forwarded to agencies in the near future.
22. Should you require any further information or assistance on this matter, please contact your APSC Client Contact directly, email agebf [at] apsc.gov.au.
A/g Branch Manager
Public Sector Branch