Researchers rubbish productivity claims over Qld public service union policy

“He actually couldn’t be more wrong,” says one public service productivity researcher. She says claims by Queensland’s opposition that public service union activity wastes resources and harms productivity don’t stack up.

One of the unique features of a public service career is the series of changes carried through with each turning of the political tide, as the party coming into government puts its own stamp on how the bureaucracy is run.

With one of two parties capable of forming government based around organised labour and the other opposed to it, one of the clearest shifts is seen in the attitude public service leaders are expected to take towards the unions that represent some of their own staff. Labor governments remove obstacles to public sector unions increasing their membership; the Coalition puts them back, and its efforts have contributed to a drop in public sector union density.

In Queensland, the Liberal-National opposition managed to stir up controversy this week with help from the Courier-Mail, which reported the government’s quiet re-instatement of its “commitment to union encouragement” in the workplace. The newspaper outlandishly described the policy as an “extraordinary deal signed in secret” and agreed with the opposition that it made the government “in effect … a recruiting arm of the union movement”.

Opposition leader Lawrence Springborg (pictured above) led the charge against the unusually explicit but nevertheless benign piece of policy guidance, which was in place for 12 years before he and his colleagues first banished it in 2013 when he was Health Minister in the Newman government. He aimed one shot at Treasurer Curtis Pitt in Tuesday’s question time. Would Pitt let new employees opt out of having their “identities and private details” given to unions? In several moderately evasive answers, he replied cryptically:

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