Striking ‘rats’ furious over HR software blunder

by Chloe Taylor26 May 2015
The Commonwealth’s largest department has further angered its striking employees by comparing them to rats.

Departmental bosses reportedly portrayed the employees on a computer screen as rats – but the Department of Human Services claims that it was simply a mistake involving newly implemented software.

The Canberra Times reported that amidst the ongoing battle with workers over pay and conditions, someone at the department added a new icon to the internal online platform used to record leave and absences.

The icon that symbolises workers who took a one-hour protected stop-work action is a rodent, and although the department argued that it is a mouse, employees believe it was the department’s way of comparing those who took part in the strike to rats.

According to The Times, some of the department’s workers are now demanding that the manager who chose to use the picture faces disciplinary action.

A DHS spokesperson said that the staff have drawn a false conclusion, as the icon was merely selected from those available on the department’s workplace software.

“The department uses a commercial scheduling tool to roster staff in some parts of the department,” said the spokesperson. “Icons are used to designate different schedule activities undertaken by staff, and given there are already 270 icons in use, a mouse was selected to ensure Protected Industrial Action was appropriately recorded in our system.”

The spokesperson added that the department had not intended to offend its workers.

“The selection of the icon was not intended to be disrespectful,” the spokesperson added.  “We acknowledge it could be misconstrued, and the icon has now been changed.”


  • by Clem Wright 26/05/2015 12:57:09 PM

    The fact that public service employees interpreted the choice of a rodent icon in a negative way is symptomatic of the climate created in both the federal and state public services by governments of both sides of politics. Since the emergence of razor gangs and economic rationalism in the mid to late 1980s, successive governments have sought to differentiate themselves from their predecessors and demonstrate what good economic managers they are by slagging off their public servants, demanding efficiency dividends, cutting FTEs (not people mind you but FTEs !), assessing the performance of senior managers by how many staff they can lose, and failing to acknowledge the vital work performed by public servants to assist industry, business, the community in general, and those vulnerable in our society through ill-health or permanent disability. When was the last time you heard a good news story about a public servant ? The climate in most government departments ranges from cynical to poisonous so the occasional rat is the least of our worries !

  • by SDM 26/05/2015 2:46:51 PM

    Am I reading this right? They want someone to be disciplined about an image chosen for a meaning they have applied.... I wonder who will get disciplined for all the time wasting on this issue. Perhaps if the employees put this much energy & passion into their work the public service would have a better reputation.

  • by robscottinsyd 27/05/2015 11:22:38 AM

    Probably would have become an issue, irrespective of the icon. BTW, rats are pretty clever creatures!

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