ATO’s “fun” anti-absence incentive crushed by union

by Chloe Taylor08 Jan 2015
It has been reported that managers at the Australian Taxation Office had to give workers an incentive to show up to work over the Christmas period.

Public servants at the ATO had to be enticed into work, as managers were faced with the task of stopping a torrent of sickies.

Managers rewarded good attendance with a chance to win scratch cards from under the office Christmas tree.

The managers of an ATO customer service call centre in Queensland announced at the beginning of December that they were planning a way to “have a bit of fun” while they tried to lower the numbers of “unscheduled absence” in their workplace, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Following the pledge, a Christmas tree was put up in the Upper Mount Gravatt office with a $5 scratch card placed beneath it each day that there were no unscheduled absences.

If fewer than five people were absent, there would be a $2 card placed under the tree, while a $1 would be put there if there were six to eight absences. Any more than eight absentees meant that there would be no prizes added to the draw that day.

Each employee was placed into the draw, with one chance to win for each full week of full attendance during December. The draw was held on Christmas Eve, with the winner taking home the Christmas tree and all of the scratch cards beneath it.

Managers at the ATO are being encouraged to confront the agency’s absence issues, with the ATO ranking highly amongst the worst performers in the large Commonwealth departments when it comes to sickies.

Despite being among only a small number of agencies to improve its rate of unscheduled absence in recent years, the ATO's workers were still clocking up more than three weeks, on average, of not showing up to work in the 2013-2014 financial year.

But the Australian Service Union was not happy about the "bit of fun" initiative by the managers at Upper Mount Gravatt, alleging that tax officials who fail to show up for work are the victims of discrimination.

The ATO’s workers clocked up an average of over three weeks’ worth of absences in 2013-14.

However, a workplace trade union voiced objections to the ATO’s incentive, claiming that the scheme discriminated against those who were absent from work.

“This really is a case of the ASU being a Christmas grinch,” a spokeswoman for the ATO said. “We support our people to use their initiative in managing staffing issues.

This was a case of someone trying to do it in a fun way and who achieved some good results. The ATO encourages staff to use their entitlements appropriately as stated under the enterprise agreement.”

It is understood the Upper Mount Gravatt scheme was quietly abandoned after the union voiced its objections, the Herald reported.


  • by Kevin 8/01/2015 11:40:13 AM

    Unions will always object to anything that impacts on their "hard won" conditions of service. If we said that we would pay staff for their sick leave and include it in their salary and superannuation and penalty payments they would claim this too was discrimination. Such is the world we live in.

  • by michael minns 8/01/2015 7:06:23 PM

    Sick leave is a benefit not an entitlement and is to be used for the benefit of sick people. Having the job itself should be the only incentive. If the employees are using, on the average up three weeks sick leave a year then there is a recruitment problem and a culture issue. The person responsible for the culture is the manager. Stop treating the symptoms and start fixing the problems.

  • by Deborah 9/01/2015 3:13:40 PM

    This exemplifies all that is wrong with the public service mentality and the stupidity of union officials. Lets also remember that the majority of non-public service staff are entitled to far less personal leave and averages much lower utilisation... something is wrong with this and any initiative that addresses the rort of taxpayer dollars is a step in the right direction.

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