Department’s flexible office seating proposal sparks union ire

By Jackson Graham

Tuesday November 16, 2021

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Grits teeth…(insta_photos/Adobe)

The Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment is proposing flexible office seating as staff are allowed to return from Canberra’s lockdown, but a union says most workers are opposed or unsure about it. 

The department says the move will mean “people will not need a desk in the office every day” and provide staff with more choice and control about where they work and how. 

The CPSU raised issues earlier in the year about accommodating office workers in some buildings due to caps on numbers allowed inside.

The union has now found from a survey that 95% of respondents do not agree with, or were unsure about, the introduction of proposed flexible seating and an accompanying booking system. 

The union’s deputy national president, Brooke Muscat, said the CPSU was the first to make many staff aware of the flexible seating proposal. 

“The Department of Agriculture Water and Environment have tried to creep in hot-desking under the cover of a lockdown,” she said. 

“Now is absolutely not the time to implement policies like this, there are complex WHS issues to work through first as staff return to offices.” 

The department told The Mandarin through a spokesperson it was not implementing hot-desking, and the new arrangements would comply with SafeWork Australia protocols for providing a COVID-safe working environment. 

We will ensure appropriate arrangements are made for staff with WHS equipment and other adjustments,” the spokesperson said. 

“Flexible seating practices are already in place in a number of APS agencies and we are taking their lessons learnt into account.”

The department plans to run a pilot to trial the initiative and leaders involved have been briefing their teams, but the CPSU says there hasn’t been any consultation with staff. 

The department’s spokesperson disagreed and said it was undertaking consultation with staff. 

“This engagement has occurred in accordance with the department’s enterprise agreement and has included engagement with the CPSU,” they said. 

The department is also preparing to move into new Canberra offices in the third quarter of 2022, located at London Circuit.


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