Border Force staff forced to pay for work social events

Drinks with friends at Establishment Bar in Sydney City. 28 January 2011. AFR photo by Andrew Quilty. Generic: beer; wine; bar; pub; hotel; license; drink; drinking; booze; alcohol; binge; long lunch; friends, business, sexual harrasment; HR; Human Resources; harrasment; inter office relationship; relationship; love; partner; couple; work and play; don’t screw the crew The new CPSU ACT regional secretary, Brooke Muscat-Bentley.Photo: Jamila Toderas

Australian Border Force officials have directed staff to organise quarterly social events outside work hours and at their own expense, with planned Christmas drinks and “pizza Fridays” a response to recent staff survey results.

Regional coordinators for the Australian Border Force College and Workforce Capability Branch are being required by acting commander Lisa Milin to organise social events in each state and territory, every three months.

A department officer told staff the social events must be organised outside work hours and at employees’ own expense.

Suggestions for the events include morning teas, birthday celebrations, Christmas drinks, quarterly lunches, fitness activities and pizza events on Fridays.

“As you are all aware several projects were identified in the recent branch staff survey and our new acting commander Lisa Milin is keen to see them implemented,” an email to staff this month, provided to Fairfax Media, said.

“One of these projects to be implemented is a quarterly social activity per state, to be arranged by local staff.

“Please understand these activities are expected to be conducted in the officers’ own time (morning tea, lunch, after work) and will not be funded by the department.”

The officer said branch and college staff should be invited to attend the same events where possible and asked for dates and activities to be set for the first round as soon as possible.

The Community and Public Sector Union said the proposal was unfair, but a spokesman for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection said “attendance at social activities organised by staff is completely voluntary.”

One Border Force staff member called for the department to include allowances for “directed social events” as part of the Immigration’s ongoing enterprise bargaining negotiations, currently before Fair Work Commission arbitration.

CPSU acting deputy secretary Brooke Muscat-Bentley defended Immigration and Border Force staff, saying they did not need instructions from bosses to socialise regularly with their colleagues.

“This unfortunately appears to be a half-baked response to the morale and cultural issues within the Australian Border Force, problems that have been confirmed by surveys both by the CPSU and the agency itself,” she said.

“It’s a complete over stretch for Border Force to be issuing a directive pushing officers to meet up in their own time and even pay for it out of their own pocket.

“That’s really not the way to rebuild trust between frontline officers and their bosses.”

Ms Muscat-Bentley said intense and high pressure work of Immigration and Border Force employees meant they had close working relationships with their colleagues.

“That often extends to social events, so they certainly don’t need a directive from their bosses,” she said.

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