Workplace Relations and Employment Minister Bill Shorten.
Workplace Relations and Employment Minister Bill Shorten. Rob Williams

Public servants to take rights

PUBLIC servants transferred to the private sector as part of the Queensland Government's job purge will take their pay conditions with them, under law reforms the Federal Government has proposed.

In a further attempt to weigh in on the public sector versus Newman Government battle in the sunshine state, Workplace Relations and Employment Minister Bill Shorten has announced a plan to close a loophole in the Commonwealth Fair Work Act to provide greater security to outsourced public servants.

Standing at the entrance of Parliament House on Friday flanked by union members, Mr Shorten said he would introduce a bill into Federal Parliament to ensure public servants outsourced to the private sector could be guaranteed the same pay and work conditions as the job they left behind.

"I believe that former state public service employees who become employed by private sector employers covered by the Fair Work Act should be in no-worse-off position than other employees who transfer between employers covered by the Fair Work Act," he said. 

The Newman Government has flagged outsourcing public services, including in health and public works, to the private sector. 

Mr Shorten said while his bill would not stop the outsourcing it would prevent the "ambushing" of public servants.

"What it will do is prevent Queensland public service workers from being ambushed, from having their existing conditions torn up and being sold off at discounted rates," he said.

The changes will only apply if public servants are transferred to a nationally-registered company to do the same job.

Mr Shorten said the Fair Work Act did not cover unincorporated associations that are just in Queensland, "like tuck shops"

The legislation already applies in Victoria, the Northern Territory and the ACT.

Queensland Council of Unions president John Battams predicted the State Government would criticise the move as an impingement on state rights.

"But state rights should never be used as a flag for ripping off people," he said.

The Newman Government has lashed out at its federal counterpart, arguing it should not publicly criticise the sacking of 14,000 public servants when the Federal Government is rolling out its own public sector sackings. 

Comment has been sought from Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls.   

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