For many years Ambulance Victoria has used the Mercer CED Job Analysis System to assess the work value of their administrative employees covered by the Ambulance Victoria Enterprise Agreement. The system had been used broadly across the Victorian Public Sector (VPS) and other jurisdictions around Australia. Much of the VPS dumped the Mercer CED system many years ago because it was considered biased towards employers and provided no transparency for employees.
The Mercer CED involves a complex system of allocating points based on expertise, judgement and accountability required in the roles. These points are then matched to pay bands. The problem is that the methodology is confidential, and employees and their representatives are not afforded the opportunity to review the outcomes. So effectively the employer can make their own call on the work value of the employees without employees having the ability to challenge the assessment.
Ambulance Victoria is in the process of moving away from the Mercer CED methodology for higher rated management and admin staff but have left most lower ranked roles at the mercy of this system. This leaves over 200 AV employees in the dark on whether they are paid appropriately for the jobs they do. Roles have changed considerably in some cases, yet AV’s secret assessment of the work value has not changed.
Recent restructures within AV admin teams have brought to the fore the issues related to the Mercer CED methodology. At AEAV’s request a re-assessment of work value points was conducted. AV conducted the review internally with no external review or oversight. AEAV is currently in negotiations with AV to have the assessment independently reviewed. In discussions, AV representatives have stated that the assessment is independent if conducted by another corporate division of AV. The AEAV contends that this does not “pass the pub test” for independent assessment.
The table above was provided to staff as justification for the work value points. With no visibility of the scale used, employees have no way of knowing whether C+ or D- is the most appropriate classification for Knowledge & Experience.
Given that AV is not the only organisation to use the Mercer CED methodology for calculation of work value, it would be reasonable to look to other organisations for guidance as to best practice when using this system. The Northern Territory government in 2008 published an Information Booklet on the Job Evaluation System (JES). The guidance is designed for NT public sector agencies. The guidance relates to the same Mercer CED system and how it should be implemented. According to the NT government, integral to the effective application of the system is the preparation of Job Analysis Questionnaires (JAQ) and the formation of the panel that assesses the roles. This is where holes start to appear in the way AV uses the Mercer CED methodology.
The NT government requires that the panel consist of one representative from the agency and two from external agencies. AV has used two of its own staff and nil from outside. The NT government also requires that the JAQ’s be completed by impacted staff and supervisors. It is AEAV’s understanding that AV does not do JAQ’s and have recently only consulted supervisors. The NT guidance highlights the risk of a conflict of interest for direct line managers and stresses that they should not be involved in the evaluation. In AV’s most recent case, involving the Financial Transactional Services team, the only person from the department who contributed to the evaluation was the line managers. The AEAV is challenging the independence of the work value review on the basis that JAQ’s were not completed, impacted staff were not consulted and there was no independent input.
By way of comparison, the VPS Enterprise Agreement 2020 provides detailed job descriptors which are clearly defined. Any employee can refer to the Agreement and use the detailed table to self-analyse the most appropriate grade for the work they do. Unfortunately, this is not the case for these AV employees.
Historically, many awards and agreements that used the Mercer CED Job Evaluation System incorporated protections for workers to mitigate the risks associated with the opaqueness of the system. Whether the protections were union involvement in the job evaluation committee, preparation of JAQ’s or utilising external agencies that afforded some degree of independence, the inference was clear, that the process should not solely be the domain of the employer. Unfortunately for Ambulance Victoria employees these protections are not available.
Effectively AV is asking these employees to put their faith in an employer that failed to deal with years of cultural decay, resulting in an independent review by the Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission. An organisation that has failed its employees to this degree needs to earn back that trust by being transparent.
Where to from here ….
In the short term, AEAV has challenged the process but has seen little movement from AV despite acknowledgement by AV that the current system is not transparent and does not afford these employees the same protections as their colleagues. Negotiations continue with AV to have external or independent oversight, with AEAV assessing our options to challenge the process. In the long term, AEAV will fight in Enterprise Bargaining for a fairer system that is transparent and provides options for review.
For representation or membership enquiries contact the AEAV team on 9287 1713 or via email at [email protected]