It’s Transition Time with a Capability Uplift

Updated 23/07/2021

It has been a long time since a Government agreed with the need to think outside their budget square and look at its own staff as an asset and not merely something that’s costed and counted.  The previous Baillieu/Napthine Government unilaterally announced their Sustainable Government Initiative (SGI) (sic), which apart from 4,200 redundancies and 2,000 fixed term positions being cut, and a freeze on appointments, offered no workforce plan to assist in transitioning the displaced workforce and just wasted hundreds of millions in redundancy payments.

Thousands of people were made redundant, workloads expanded, and Departments saved no money as they reached out to consultants, labour hire and contractors to undertake the work.

CPSU set about with this Government to find an alternative to the boom and bust nightmare that SGI imposed on the VPS and entered discussions for a Workforce Transition Plan.

This year ‘savings’ have been identified by a unilateral reduction in the state government wages policy applicable to public sector bargaining from 2022, and other savings have been identified arising from the 2019 base reviews, conducted before the bushfires and the pandemic, which have, through re-prioritisation of budget allocations from lapsing programs to new and emerging priorities, identified the need for a workforce transition plan for VPS staff to re-utilise existing skills.

To this end the union and Government (as employer) representatives have worked towards a plan that places ongoing jobs at the heart of any transition by offering affected staff a range of supports to reskill, be job matched within an internal labour market as well as providing an incentive for staff at a certain time in their working life to consider enhanced retirement.

Just transition arrangements are often discussed by Governments, industry, unions for private sector business, who need to change or refocus operations.

Hazelwood is an example of a Just Transition Package that gives options to staff affected by a decision at a Board room.

Usually Governments as an employer just move to retrench people to get to a preferred budget bottom line, rather than work at reskilling, retraining staff, to take on new roles.

In discussions with the union, the Government has committed to a new Workforce Transition Policy which picks up elements of training, job matching, restricted external advertising for job vacancies in the first instance, cutting the use of consultants and labour hire and strengthening the role of the JSE in job placements.

In addition, the Government has agreed to make available an Enhanced Retirement Incentive to give those staff considering retiring over the next few years real financial options to consider going earlier than planned.

The policy was first used at Goulburn Murray Water, and its successful application obviated the need for wholesale redundancies.

Over the coming months the union and the Government will continue to work through these challenging issues all within the obligations of our VPS Enterprise Agreement and a stated commitment to ongoing jobs, a highly trained and adaptable workforce as we work to overcome the impact of Covid on the State.

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