The past year has seen considerable activity on the agreement making front in the ABS. With the ABS Certified Agreement 2001-2003 expiring on 31 May 2003, a major task has been the development of a new agreement. The replacement agreement, ABS Certified Agreement 2003-2006, was developed in consultation with employees and their representatives, particularly the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), under section 170LK of the Workplace Relations Act 1996. It was voted on and accepted by a majority of employees in June 2003 and certified by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission on 30 June 2003. Likewise, the Population Survey Interviewers Certified Agreement 2002-2003 expired on 30 June 2003 and consultation has been underway for a replacement agreement. It is expected that a formal offer will be put to interviewers in July 2003 with the outcome known in September 2003.
These consultations have taken place in a very constructive environment. Although there were many matters on which we did not initially agree, the negotiations took place in a way where all parties tried to reach a mutually agreeable solution. Agreement was reached on most issues and a better Certified Agreement resulted. I would like to thank all staff and their representatives, particularly the CPSU representatives, for the important roles they played.
Effective performance management remains a key strategy in ABS working conditions and arrangements. As a result of a review of the ABS Performance Management Scheme which was conducted during 2001-02, a number of initiatives have been pursued this year aimed at making the scheme more effective. One of the major initiatives has been a training program undertaken by all staff early in 2003 designed to improve understanding of the scheme.
The National Forum, which includes representatives from divisional and regional office consultative forums and the unions, instituted as part of the wider ABS Certified Agreement consultation framework, held its annual meeting with the Australian Statistician in March 2003. The National Forum considered a range of issues including the development of revised certified agreements, progress with the Business Statistics Innovation Program, and statistical training including the proposal to develop a National Statistical Institute within the ABS.
A number of strategic projects were pursued during the year with the view to better understanding the human resource drivers in the ABS and managing change processes. These included the development of a human resources change management framework - initially focused on the changes being introduced through the Business Statistics Innovation Program - but equally useful in any area undergoing significant change; analysis of attraction and retention factors; and early development of an employee proposition and enhanced branding for ABS recruitment activities.
The ABS continues to provide high quality staff learning and development opportunities across three streams, namely, statistical skills, information technology, and leadership and management. These are delivered through various means including online, formal programs (delivered both internally and externally) and well equipped resource centres. The focus in the latter part of 2002-03 was to deliver learning and development activities more effectively and efficiently by taking a more national approach to this function rather than continuing with the previous eight location based model.