A public service union is threatening industrial action over a proposal to increase the length of a working day by nine minutes for thousands of workers.
The proposal to change the knock-off time from 4:51pm to 5pm will be put to staff at the Australian Tax Office (ATO) when official bargaining on new agreements begins next week.
The idea is also being floated with staff at Geoscience Australia and the Defence Department.
Geoff Lapidos from the Australian Services Union (ASU) said the move would not improve productivity.
“Cutting conditions is not a productivity gain. It’s just an imposition on employees that does not increase productivity,” he told 666 ABC Canberra.
“Genuine productivity comes from investing in systems, processes and employees to increase the capability of the agency.”
The 4:51pm public service knock-off time pre-dates enterprise bargaining in Australia, which began in the 1990s.
Mr Lapidos said the ASU has opposed a later finishing time for years.
“The Tax Office first suggested it in 2006 and we strongly opposed it then,” he said.
Mr Lapidos said Flextime arrangements with employees allowing for flexible start and finish times means many public servants no longer actually finish at 4:51pm, but this was not the point.
“This issue is the length of the working week and also how the Government wants to extract cuts and conditions to finance a pay rise rather than sharing productivity gains with employees,” he said.
An extra nine minutes each working day equates to 45 minutes per working week, and about an extra week of work over the course of the year.
An ATO spokeswoman said the department would negotiate in good faith on the enterprise agreement.
“We will be discussing a range of employment conditions as part of that process, but as part of our commitment to good faith bargaining, we will not be publicly commenting on the negotiations prior to bargaining discussions,” she said.
“We are keeping our staff regularly informed and will continue to update them through the bargaining process.”