Whilst negotiations have continued since our last update on 23 January there is still no agreement for a new permanent Award. Despite the best efforts of both parties over the last six months, we remain a good deal apart on several key issues.
Sick leave is one such issue. In simple terms, the Department’s proposals for a new sick leave protocol have all revolved around sticks (only the size has varied) with which to beat our allegedly wayward members. The Union has, on the other hand, been advocating carrots. The Department’s proposed new regime would see members who were deemed to have exceeded “reasonable” sick leave limits and/or patterns become the subject of targeted intervention and sanctions, including interviews by senior officers, referral to the BMO, denial of transfers and overtime and – ultimately – disciplinary action. The Union countered with an innovative proposal whereby cash bonuses of up to $1,600 pa would be paid to every member who maintained a rolling 5 year average of 100 hours or less sick leave each calendar year. Their bottom line was that our carrots (which they rejected) cost a lot more than their sticks (which we rejected), and we’re now locked in stalemate.
Sick leave and the broader causes for overtime (including staff shortages) are complex and difficult issues, not least because nobody in the Department appears to actually know the size of the so-called problem. In fact the absence of any credible statistics leaves us questioning whether there is really a problem at all. Anyway, the next time someone lobs up to your station to lecture you about the X number of hours everyone is taking, tell them to give us a call at the Union office because nobody (and we mean nobody) in “The Tower” appears to have the figures.
It will come as no surprise to members to learn that the other major areas of disagreement are the quantum (ie, % wage increases) and term (ie, duration) of the new Award. Members will recall that the Government’s original position was for 3% plus 3% over two years. In a sign of at least some progress, the Department last week made two new offers – the first being an across-the-board 4% plus 3% over two years, and the second a divisive proposal whereby S/O’s and Inspectors would receive 4.5% and 3% at the expense of all other ranks, who would only receive 3.75% and 3%. The State Committee rejected both offers in favour of a revised claim of 4% for one year, which would then be followed by another Award which would be negotiated and in place from February 2005.
The Commissioner today confirmed that discussions between the highest levels of the Department and Government over the last two days are expected to result in another offer being put to us by this coming Monday 23 February, or Tuesday 24 February at the very latest. A further update will be circulated to all members’ workplaces, and posted to the Union’s website, once that offer has been received.
In closing, our thanks go to Comrade Les Roach (84 B) who has kindly written to correct what appears to have been misleading advice in the last Union notice:
“Re the info re retirement in the current newsletter, you may be in error in what you have advised. I have been advised by the Paymaster (in writing) not to retire until Sat 6th March this would mean working one day in the new pay period thereby establishing the new pay rates as of the date of my retirement. Regards, Les Roach.”