Australian Taxation Office: Know why ATO staff don't accept the nine-minute proposal

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australian taxation office
A logo of Australian Taxation Office. Facebook/ATO

Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has proposed additional nine minutes to work hours in a day to ATO staff. The proposal aimed to maximise the office's people and resources and to align the work hours to community standards.

ATO staff has not accepted this for the last three enterprise agreement (EA) proposals. The latest happened in May and December 2016 with a 71 percent voting majority.  Furthermore, ATO staff did not have a pay increase since 2013.

ATO's Concerns

In the documents obtained by ABC from ATO, the taxing office stated that the staff have ended work at 4:51 p.m. for many years. ATO proposed to extend the working hours from 4:51 p.m. to 5 p.m., giving additional four and a half working days per year. But the proposals were dropped due to contentions by its staff. ATO calculated that if the nine-minute proposal is accepted, an employee's productivity will increase by 1.78 percent in a year.

ATO believed that the nine-minute proposal would align the office to community standards and the other offices' standard working hours. ATO has the shortest working hours in a government office at present. 

"Of all the changes proposed in the enterprise agreement (EA) package, this was the one you[referring to staff] told us you disliked the most," ATO stated in the internal briefings. Based on the feedback, ATO made clear that a genuine EA would be in place for the next three years.

"The majority of feedback from our employees has indicated a willingness to work an additional nine minutes a day as they already work at or more than 7.5 hours and also — quite appropriately — to underpin a pay rise," ATO said in the documents. In addition, ATO explained that the productivity that may result in the proposed additional nine-minute work will justify a pay increase.

ATO staff's concerns

Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), the largest union for government workers said that the proposal was ludicrous. "Our members are working longer hours than ever, including unpaid overtime, because of over 4,000 jobs that have been slashed from the ATO in recent years," CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said.

Moreover, Flood said the nine-minute proposal was not the only issue for CPSU members. She claimed there were 33 cuts to workplace conditions. "They were understandably upset at a cut to their hourly pay rate via changing working hours at the same time as they were being told to accept a measly pay offer at that stage of 0.8 percent a year," Flood said. Labor also pointed out concerns in 2016 that more than 4,000 job losses at the tax office had limited its ability to investigate tax avoidance.

Meanwhile, ATO  said the office remained committed to reaching a good outcome for staff, the government and taxpayers. At present, the office is seeking feedback from the staff to inform the EA process and also ensure that its engagement and communication approaches meet its employees' needs.