Media Watchdog ACMA faces job cuts which could see one in five staff axed

ACMAMedia watchdog the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is facing job cuts which the union claims could see more than 100 of its 500 plus staff depart.

The agency is under pressure to find savings after seeing a $3.3m reduction in its funding over four years in May’s Federal Budget with the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) accusing the authority of conducting a “spill and fill exercise by stealth”.

“Just like any Government agency the ACMA is suffering from the wider cuts to the public service that has seen budgets chopped and up to 16,500 jobs across the Commonwealth on the chopping block,” said Beth Vincent-Pietsch CPSU deputy secretary.

“Nevertheless it’s time for the ACMA to come clean. Management have been delivering cuts through whispers in corridors, taps on the shoulder and generally via a piecemeal approach that only serves to confuse staff and bypass consultation rights.”

The statutory regulator has oversight over television, radio, telecommunications, cyber safety and a number of other key areas.

Asked to comment on the cuts chairman Chris Chapman said: “The ACMA has had solid success over the years in managing its employee numbers so that it can increase or redirect employees in a timely manner to support emerging or changing priorities.

“The ACMA’s funding base has been reducing primarily as a result of expiring new policy proposal (NPP) funding as the work associated with the ACMA’s digital transition work has been drawing to a close.

“Consistent with the agency’s approach to these processes and taking into account the Government’s commitment to reducing the size of the APS through natural attrition, the ACMA continues to closely scrutinise requests to fill all roles and only approves the filling of these roles if the work to be undertaken is critical and the capabilities sought are aligned to the agency’s longer term capability planning.”

The CPSU responded accusing the authority of running a “spill and fill” by stealth and called for the ACMA to be open with the union about how many staff would be cut over the next few years.

“Now they are talking about ‘allocations’ when the reality is they are running a ‘spill and fill’ exercise by stealth in the agency. The ACMA needs to be up front with staff and unions about how it plans to reduce the overall staff headcount by more than a 100 and how it can still deliver services with a fifth fewer staff,” said Vincent-Pietsch.

“Under the terms of their enterprise agreement the ACMA has obligations to consult with staff and respect their rights and we aim to ensure that it meets those obligations even if that means elevating the matter to the Fair Work Commission. The time for dodging our questions is over.”

This year’s budget imposed multiple year-on-year efficiency savings on the ACMA of 0.9 per cent this year and then 0.8 per cent for the next three years.

Source: Budget Papers

Source: Budget Papers

ACMA chair Chapman said he was confident savings could be found throughout the agency.

“The agency has reduced its average staffing levels by around 20 per cent since 2011 and, following its very recent restructuring processes, is now well positioned to manage future estimated reductions (around 3 per cent to early 2014-15 and around a further 8-9 per cent in the following financial year),” said Chapman.

The cuts at the ACMA come not long after the federal Department of Communications is understood to have dramatically reined back major cuts that had been expected to see as many as 125 of the 550 positions within the department go.

In the federal budget in May the Federal Government announced it would seek to eliminate 16,500 public service positions over the next four years. 

Updated 1:33pm: Since publication the ACMA has sent the following addition to its statement:

The ACMA’s recent restructure  has seen the majority of staff transition directly into the new structure on a ‘people follow function’ principle.  Where this has not been possible, a potential outcome advised to staff (throughout the course of the restructure consultations)  was that  a merit- based process may need to be undertaken…..and, in some cases, this process is currently underway.”

Nic Christensen 


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