Will public servants be denied time to express milk and feed infants while on the job?
“No,” was the blunt answer given to The Mandarin from the Australian Public Service Commission, in response to claims from a Labor frontbencher that new workplace agreements would strip mothers of their breaks.
Shadow minister for women and carers, Senator Claire Moore, and central Victorian MP Lisa Chesters, who chairs Labor’s Fair Work Taskforce, say the federal government is “forcing agencies to scrap lactation breaks for Commonwealth government employees from their enterprise agreements through its workplace bargaining policy”, highlighting the apparent removal of provisions in contracts at two agencies.
The pair said in a joint statement:
“The Department of Veterans Affairs and Safe Work Australia have both removed provisions to assist new mothers with lactation and breastfeeding. Other agencies are removing similar clauses in a drive to meet APSC requirements to strip back agreement content.
“By forcing agencies to remove such essential workplace conditions, the Abbott-Turnbull government is demonstrating that it doesn’t really understand what it means to be a new mum returning to work …
“Labor calls on the Minister for Employment and Women, Michaelia Cash, to immediately reverse this obscene, offensive and perverse bargaining framework.”
But the APSC insists no public servants with newborns are losing any rights with regard to breastfeeding or expressing milk at work as a consequence of a new agreement coming into force. Asked specifically about the effect of the “clauses” in older enterprise bargaining agreements that Chester and Moore cite being removed from new contracts, a spokesperson for public service commissioner John Lloyd said simply: “There is no effect.”
The Mandarin will seek clarification from Chester’s office.