WA Govt must offer job certainty or risk losing OSS employees

The government must put together a transition plan to manage the process of employees back into agencies

The WA Government must provide certainty for employees of its Office of Shared Services (OSS) around transitioning back into public sector agencies, or risk losing them before it has been decommissioned.

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) WA Branch assistant secretary, Jo Gaines, told Computerworld Australia it was up to government to manage a smooth process for employees to apply for jobs in a way that ensures them priority access to public sector jobs throughout the transition.

“We will meet with the Government to have a conversation about how they’re going to ensure these people with these skills and expertise can transition back into the agencies that are going to need them, because the agencies are now going to have to take these functions back,” she said.

The Government must develop a transition plan, Gaines said, for which a forecast of 18 months has been made to transition out of shared services depending on different agencies.

“Existing public sector workers might see a job in an agency that’s secure and go for it, that’s a real danger for shared services, so it’s really incumbent on the government to make sure they do have a proper plan in place or people will leave.”

“They’ve got families and mortgages and they have to put those things first, but that will be exacerbated if they don’t have some commitments and assurances from government that they will manage the exit properly, she said. “The government has the ability to manage that or if to leave it as a free for all, from which the consequences for will be very difficult.”

According to Gaines, while employees have been concerned following the announcement to disband the OSS they already had knowledge that they were trying to do a job with an incapable IT solution.

“They’ve had a level of frustration with the whole process and many of them having been working there for a number of years now trying to deliver a professional service to the public sector and been frustrated by the technology they had to do that with,” she said.

The issues with the OSS had been gaining momentum, Gaines said, with the initial agencies to roll-in typifying a nine-to-five work schedule, a schedule far from that of agencies which commenced roll-in recently with employees on shift work, working overtime, and with generally much more complex employee arrangements.

“The systems really couldn’t deal with it and we’ve now got people whose earnings for the last financial year are incorrect, they have to do tax returns but they don’t know what they were supposed to be paid and they have to go back through this major audit process,” Gaines said.

It was the roll-in of the Department of Transport that “tipped the hat”, Gaines said, with the vast array of employees working all sorts of hours and shifts, following which the issues came to a head. A number of agencies preparing to roll-in assessed the situation and decided they weren’t prepared to roll-in unless the OSS could ensure things were put right, following which the OSS admitted they couldn’t get it right nor had the money to try to make it right.

“It was not set up to deal with the complexity of the work arrangements that exist in the public sector and people just had this very narrow view about what the public sector was and it was never that.”

The WA shared services failure is not the first in Australia, with failed attempts well documented in Queensland and South Australia.

According to Gaines, the shared services experience in Queensland was highlighted extensively when WA was setting up its OSS to indicate it would not work but was set up anyway.

“It seemed to be a very quick fix at the time around trying to address a budget problem that the Government had and they were sold a glossy brochure they believed,” she said.

Follow Chloe Herrick on Twitter: @chloe_CW

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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