ATO agency bargain accepted
By Chris Slee
Public Sector Union members in the Australian Taxation Office voted in a series of meetings from May 11 to May 25 to accept the proposed agency bargaining agreement.
The agreement gives a 4% pay rise for most workers in return for a range of trade-offs, including union acceptance of benchmarking; contracting out of work currently done by the Tax Office; job cuts in "business as usual" areas of the Tax Office, and the transfer of workers to stepped-up debt collection activity; compulsory movement of staff.
Despite widespread concern about these trade-offs, the agreement was accepted overwhelmingly. The national total was 4448 to 705.
Union officials and Tax Office management worked together to sell the deal. Mass meetings in each major city were paid for by management. A management-organised "staff meeting" occurred first, addressed by Michael Carmody, the commissioner of taxation. Then after a short break, the union meeting occurred, addressed by PSU officials.
Management and union speakers assured the audience that their fears were groundless. It was claimed that there would be no net loss of jobs. In benchmarking, the union would be "consulted" on the companies to be used as benchmarks, and the union would reject any companies that have poor health and safety conditions. Contracting out and compulsory movement of staff were unlikely to occur, even though the agreement provides for them.