Decision to Declare Agency Open Questioned

A survey of CPSU DPFEM Members reveals many workers are unhappy about the decision to declare the agency open, meaning workers in this agency wouldn’t have access to the Christmas close-down days negotiated in the Public Sector Unions Wages Agreement. The survey results raise questions as to whether many workplaces were in fact ‘open’.

A new entitlement was created in the PSUWA to provide that…”where a Head of Agency determines to close the Agency or part of Agency commencing from Christmas Day and ending on New Year’s Day including days that are not State Service Holidays With Pay, day workers covered by the PSUWA and who work in those offices that are closed will be entitled to three (3) ex gratia days with pay (non-accruable) to cover those usual working days without deduction from recreation leave.”

The Head of State Service issued Agencies with guidelines so the new condition was applied equitably.  Each Secretary was required to assess their workplaces and where normal work wasn’t proceeding, close the workplace.  But DPFEM Secretary Donna Adams wrote to all staff before the holiday break saying that “… the department is open and normal services will continue, noting there will be reduced staffing levels in some support areas within the Agency.”

However, responses to the CPSU survey show:

  • About 70% of those surveyed wanted to see the Agency change this policy of being declared open during this time.
  • Over half of respondents said there was either little demand for the services the workplace provided or were performing tasks that didn’t need to be done during these three days.
  • Fewer than one third of DFPEM workers who responded agreed with the decision to remain open.

Here’s what a TFS worker had to say about the decision to close the whole of DPFEM:

“It was disappointing – and I know other departments got the close-down days. I don’t know why our Department had this broad, sweeping decision to remain open forced on it, when in reality there was no one around.

“I came in here on the Thursday between Christmas and New Year’s Day and it was like a ghost town. There were a couple of people working – but only a couple out of 50 or 60.

“That’s (DPFEM’s) culture – to send out a broad ranging statement to say all of the department is open.

“These people have worked really hard. Workers and the Government have negotiated an agreement, and the intent of that agreement is to give some people some additional leave so they can have a break over Christmas. It allows them to spend time with their families. It allows them to recover from potentially stressful situations that they may be working on. It gives them some time and space to ready themselves for another busy year. For that to be taken away is really disappointing.”

The CPSU will write to Secretary Donna Adams to ask for the reasons for this determination when information provided by members showed many workplaces should have been closed.

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