Government Sector Employment Bill 2013

31-May-2013

Big changes in public sector employment - and in public health?

The NSW Legislative Assembly passed on Wednesday, 29th May 2013, the Government Sector Employment Bill 2013, which is to replace the Public Sector Employment and Management Act 2002, as well as amending other related Acts.  

This Bill seeks to give effect to the Premier’s earlier announcement in February this year regarding the revamp of senior and senior equivalent positions in the public sector.  To that end, it should be noted that further work is said will be undertaken for a “... second phase of reforms [that] will align the NSW Police Force Senior Executive Service, the Health Executive Service and the Transport Senior Service.”  [Premier, 2nd Reading Speech]  

The Bill however goes much further than trifling with senior and senior equivalent positions, being described as “... reforms [that] will bring the sector’s employment provisions in line with contemporary practice.”   It creates a “... new government sector [which] will embrace virtually all New South Wales Government employees. The sector will comprise: the public service, teaching service, NSW Wales Police Force, NSW Health Service, and any other service of the Crown. The regulations may prescribe others.”  [Premier, 2nd Reading Speech]  

The Premier also confirmed that the “... Minister for Health, the Minister for Police and the Minister for Transport support aligning the health service, transport service, and the Police Senior Executive Service with the new public service. ... I have asked the Public Service Commissioner to lead that alignment process with the directors general of Health and Transport and the Commissioner of Police. Work is already underway with strong cooperation and collaboration to achieve this alignment seamlessly. I will bring a bill to this House in August to provide for the Government's agreed changes.”

So what is at stake?  The following is a sample only of some of the changes involved.

-  The Bill touches upon everything from appointment on merit, temporary employment, requirement for advertising positions, management of misconduct and dismissal, public sector transfers, and excess employees;

-  Concept of being permanently appointed to a position will be replaced (All public service employees, including senior executives, will be employed at a classification and assigned to a role within their agencies. Employees can be reassigned to a different role at the same classification to suit the department or agency's present needs.”  [Premier, 2nd Reading Speech]);

-  Expanded grounds and reasons for termination;

- Senior Executive and Senior equivalent (award based) officers to be moved to a new Executive structure (and not remain on awards), with such Executive positions being removed from avenues of appeal to the IRC of NSW;

- Extended leave provisions to be moved from the current Act to a new Regulation;

-  The Bill removes the statutory protections for merit selection, whilst also removing the explicit requirements to advertise positions and for merit appointment; and

-  Promotional appeals to the IRC (exercising the role of GREAT) removed. 

As the NSW Parliament has now gone on a two week recess prior to the Budget session commencing on 18 June 2013, Unions NSW is coordinating representations to cross bench MPs in the Legislative Council on the Bill to attempt to moderate some of its more alarming aspects. 

We are also trying to establish what aspects, if any, of the current Bill would immediately apply to the NSW Health Service, and then in turn what may be picked up and form any subsequent Bill to align the NSW Health Service to the above changes, as flagged by the Premier above. 

It is no overstatement that if this Bill is passed by the NSW Parliament in its current form it will be more than a substantial change.  Rather, it will be a moment when highly valued concepts such as permanency and security of tenure in a specific job are overturned and replaced with vague concepts of holding and performing any role within a classification, with the employee being able to be reassigned at the whim of the department/agency head.

ASMOF is pursuing this matter with all public sector unions and especially with our colleagues in public health unions as to what may subsequently be picked up and applied to the NSW Health Service.

Watch this space.