Bargaining for APS enterprise agreements

On 28 March 2014, the government released its new Workplace Bargaining Policy, setting out the framework for negotiations with APS employees over new enterprise agreements.

Things your agency should be aware of

The policy is binding on agencies negotiating new enterprise agreements with their employees and sets out the governments expectations on the terms and conditions that can be included.
Central to the policy is the government’s expectations on pay increases. The policy requires that any increases in salary:

  • are funded through existing budget allocations without redirecting program spending;
  • are offset by genuine productivity gains, which must not be achieved by arbitrary reductions in staffing levels; and
  • are not backdated.

The relevant minister has no discretion to approve an enterprise agreement if the proposed agreement is not affordable within existing budget allocations.

Pay is by no means the only issue that is likely to arise in negotiations, but it will present a significant challenge. Agencies that are unable to readily identify productivity gains will have no choice but to offer zero pay increases. Agencies that can identify productivity gains may only be able to offer moderate increases in salary. Agencies can anticipate that whichever situation arises, bargaining with public sector unions will be hard, especially given the unions’ historical focus on increasing working conditions.

What are the implications?

Agencies will need to carefully prepare for negotiations and think creatively about how they can make better use of existing staff within existing budget allocations.

Some of the things your agency can be doing now include:

  • identifying cashable savings that could be made to fund salary increases—for example, reducing absenteeism and excess leave balances;
  • identifying other productivity gains relating to the better use of staff—for example, measures that can be implemented to better manage performance expectations, and linking performance to salary progression;
  • making sure you have a clear understanding of the agency’s financial position, including income and costs, over the life of the proposed enterprise agreement;
  • developing clear strategies for communicating with staff throughout the negotiation process; consider engaging a trusted advisor to assist you with technical or procedural issues as they arise.

What should you do?

If your agency needs assistance in negotiating its enterprise agreement with employees, our specialist Employment, Industrial Relations and Safety team is able to assist, whether providing background advice, drafting the enterprise agreement or providing consultancy services to manage the entire process.

For more information contact the Employment, Industrial Relations and Safety team:

William Ward  | Special Counsel
(02) 6279 4444