Enterprise bargaining across Commonwealth workplaces is set for a major shake-up, with the Federal Government releasing new policy that will reshape upcoming contract negotiations across the sector, including CSIRO.
The new Public Sector Workplace Relations Policy 2023 replaces interim arrangements announced by the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) last October and articulates the Government’s policy expectations, stating that it ‘aims to re-establish the public service as a model employer and employer of choice, in order to best facilitate the delivery of essential services to the community.’
While the initial focus will remain on Australian Public Service (APS) agencies – with service-wide bargaining for pay and common conditions between the Government and CPSU already started – the policy also provides clear advice for non-APS employers, such as CSIRO, to start preparations for negotiations.
According to the APSC policy, as a Government Business Enterprise (GBE), CSIRO is ‘encouraged to apply the Non-APS Policy to the extent practicable, commensurate with their commercial and competitive circumstances.’
‘Before commencing negotiations (GBEs) are to consult the APSC and provide a summary of their bargaining position… (and) should engage with their portfolio Minister… and the APSC on matters related to enterprise bargaining.’
In setting out the policy agenda for workplace relations in non-APS agencies, the APSC has nominated five key priorities: attraction and retention of staff, administrative efficiency, fairness and equity, sustainability and the Commonwealth as model employer.
‘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,’ the policy states.
‘Workplace arrangements should assist in attracting and retaining the best and brightest employees to serve the Australian community.’
The policy encourages non-APS agencies to bargain and replace enterprise agreements past their nominal expiry date, eschew employer determinations in lieu of negotiations, make agreements for three years in duration and incorporate APS Common Conditions – still in development – where practicable.
Improving workplace consultation across the sector – following on from last year’s interim arrangements and separate APSC circular – remains a key priority for government.
‘Genuine and effective consultation with employees and relevant unions is sound management practice. It fosters a positive and inclusive workplace culture, where the views of employees are considered and taken into account before decisions that substantially impact them are made or implemented.’
‘Agencies should implement workplace arrangements that enable sustainable, high performing public sector workplaces, and encourage principles that respect and facilitate the role of employee representatives, workplace union delegates, and other union officials.’
While the policy provides for non-APS agencies to ‘make remuneration and conditions adjustments within Government parameters, as advised by the APSC’ negotiated pay outcomes in organisations such as CSIRO are expected to be largely consistent with the APS and the outcome of service-wide bargaining.
‘Changes to remuneration and conditions are to be affordable and funded from within existing agency budgets, without the redirection of programme funding.’
‘Remuneration and conditions adjustments are not to be funded through reductions in output or services, or increases in fees, charges, levies, or similar income sources beyond ordinary indexing practices,’ the policy states.
Along with other non-APS Commonwealth agencies, CSIRO Executive will need to provide their bargaining position to the APSC for assessment prior to commencing negotiations.
The policy requires organisations such as CSIRO (when formulating proposed workplace arrangements) to have regard not only for the new workplace relations policy, relevant modern award, APSC circulars and guidance, but also the ‘Commonwealth APS bargaining position or the APS Statement of Common Conditions.’
In practical terms that suggests that the progress of service-wide bargaining (SWB) between CPSU and the APSC will have significant influence on the timetable and progress of enterprise agreement negotiations at CSIRO.