The CPSU claim contains several items demanding adequate compensation for overtime and maximum control over work hours. Donnelly said a right to disconnect would be a useful backdrop to negotiations, and should form part of the cultural overhaul of parliament, which was subject to the watershed Set the Standard report by former Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins.
A government spokesperson said negotiations with MPs staff were underway. “Negotiations are ongoing, and we anticipate these matters may be discussed throughout the process,” the spokesperson said.
The right to disconnect allows an employee to ignore a workplace contact after hours if it is reasonable to do so. Donnelly said an understanding of what was reasonable would have to be left to individual circumstances.
“But for too long in parliamentary workplaces, there’s been a real culture around working long hours around the expectations of always being available, and that hasn’t always led to a safe and healthy workplace,” she said.
But before the amendment passed the Senate as part of the government’s deal with the Greens to secure the Closing Loopholes legislation last week, Lambie expressed concern in parliament about what it would mean for her staff. “I reckon they could do me over, to be honest with you,” she said.
In response, Labor minister Murray Watt pointed to the $35,000 personal allowance staffers receive, a factor that would likely be taken into account by the Fair Work Commission when determining whether action could be taken against bosses repeatedly contacting workers after hours, but Donnelly said the union wanted to make sure it wasn’t being used as a de facto supplement for base rates.
The Coalition has vowed to wind back the right to disconnect at the next election, prompting Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to accuse the opposition of wanting Australians “to work longer for less”.
Opposition industrial relations spokeswoman Michaelia Cash said that “by rolling over and accepting this terrible Greens policy, Prime Minister Albanese has opened the door to a raft of claims now likely to be made from unions right across the economy”.