Why public servants fear for their jobs



Bureaucrats can't give "frank and fearless" advice, or even get home loans, because of the perilous state of their jobs, MPs have been told.

A union has demanded every Queensland public servant be employed permanently unless there is a specific reason to give them a temporary contract only, flipping current practices on their head.

The Palaszczuk Government has proposed new laws that would allow temporary contract workers and casuals to apply to make their roles permanent after a year.

But Together Union state secretary Alex Scott said the laws should be flipped, making all public servants permanent unless they were temporarily employed to fill a maternity backfill or working on a project with a specific end date.


Together ASU Branch Secretary Alex Scott outside One William Street, Brisbane. Picture: Sarah Marshall
Together ASU Branch Secretary Alex Scott outside One William Street, Brisbane. Picture: Sarah Marshall


"We can't have frank and fearless advice to the government of the day unless we have a permanent public service," Mr Scott told the parliament committee examining the legislation.

"If someone has insecure employment, they are less able to stand up to senior management and the government of the day and give them the advice that they don't want to hear."

While only about 17 per cent of public servants are non-permanent, Mr Scott said there were higher numbers in some departments.

For example, of the 208 new employees hired by the Department of Education in October 2019, just 8 were employed permanently.

The committee was told people acting in "higher duties" for sometimes up to a decade were afraid to speak openly and honestly to managers, or even take holidays, because they feared they would be demoted back to their substantive position to their financial detriment.

Queensland Council of Unions general secretary Michael Clifford said it was important to provide people with financial certainty, so they could apply for loans, and spend in the recovering post-COVID economy.

Mr Clifford urged the Government to introduce an amendment that allowed an employee to appeal a decision not to give them permanency after a year.

He also said there was a problem within the proposed legislation as it allowed for a person to continue in insecure employment if their manager failed to make a decision on permanency - a situation that unfairly disadvantaged the worker.

The legislation will change disciplinary procedures and provide an entitlement for a public service employee defeated at an election to be reappointed to their former position.

Originally published as Why public servants fear for their jobs