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2003-04 has been another active year in terms of agreement making in the ABS. The Population Survey Interviewers Certified Agreement 2002-2003, which covers the ABS household interviewer workforce, expired on 30 June 2003, and a major task has been the development of a new agreement. The replacement agreement, the Population Survey Interviewers Certified Agreement 2003-2005 was developed in consultation with interviewers and their representatives, in particular the Community and Public Sector Union, under section 170LK of the Workplace Relations Act 1996. It was voted on and accepted by a majority of interviewers on 29 August 2003 and certified by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission on 10 September 2003. The consultations for the certified agreement took place in a very positive environment as evidenced by the acceptance of the agreement at the first vote.
Consultation in the ABS
The ABS has in place a number of consultative forums within the organisation so as to provide staff with the opportunity to have input to a range of issues. These include consultative committees convened in all cost centres and the overarching annual National Forum which includes representatives from all ABS consultative forums and unions. The most recent National Forum, held in March 2004, considered a range of issues including reports from the National Occupational Health and Safety Committee, a review of the progress of the Business Statistics Innovation Program, and developments with the National Statistical Training Institute (NSTI). In response to concerns that the views of younger employees in the ABS may be under-represented in other consultative forums, a Youth Forum was held on 3 May 2004. The general aim of the Youth Forum was to enable employees aged 30 years and under to express their views on their working lives in the ABS from the perspective of our younger employees. A range of issues were discussed at the Forum including training and development, skills usage, recruitment and career opportunities. Valuable input was provided into future decision making on these issues.
Learning and Development
The ABS has always regarded the development of its employees as a high priority. The ABS NSTI was created during the year to provide a strategic and comprehensive approach to statistical training in the ABS. The aim of the NSTI is for the ABS to have highly skilled, professional and confident statisticians to maintain and build on the ABS' high international and national reputation for producing quality statistical products. As part of the National Statistical Services initiative, a long term objective for the NSTI is to provide accredited statistical training to both ABS employees and those of other agencies. A national statistical training program has been developed and agreed. A statistical learning pathway was also developed to help ABS employees identify the learning and development activities which will be available to help them develop as professional statisticians.
Good progress has been made towards the development of an ABS Capability Development System, which will provide structure and rigour in the development of statistical skills and capabilities whilst ensuring ongoing development of core capabilities like communication, leadership and management skills. The system will align learning activities with expected capabilities and complement the ABS' established performance management system.
The use of new information technology tools in the last year has improved our ability to interrogate and relate different human resource datasets leading to increased rigour in analysing the ABS work force to understand what action is needed to ensure sustainability for the future. This has allowed better informed discussion on a range of human resource issues, for example, the demographic breakdown of the work force, rates of unscheduled absence, exit data, and information from new starters about expectations and performance of the ABS.
Work undertaken as part of the recruitment and retention strategy came to fruition during 2003-04 with the use of new branding in the graduate recruitment campaigns and job advertisements. Its objective is to present prospective applicants with an appealing but realistic image of the ABS through the use of pictures of real people and non-bureaucratic language.