Public servants told to pay the office power bills

Hundreds of Bureau of Statistics public servants are to be sent home with a laptop as the bureau pursues a plan to provide desks for only 80 per cent of its workforce.

But there’s a catch.

The “teleworking agreement” has a clause forcing workers to pay all the costs of their arrangement including power, phone, internet, water and gas.

The ABS, which is keen to use the work-from-home arrangements to reduce the amount of costly office space it occupies around Australia, says its public servants can simply claim those costs back at tax time.

The bureau also says that no-one will be forced to go home to work and that workers can choose the arrangement that suits them best.

But insiders are unhappy, grumbling that the bureau is outsourcing its costs to its own workers.

The bureau says it is moving to an “activity based working setup” which, it says, will relieve it of the burden of paying for desks sitting empty while workers are away from the office.

Unused office space is a problem across the federal government with taxpayers paying for about 34,000 work stations which are sitting idle in about 500 buildings around Australia.

Now, ABS bosses have calculated that they only need to provide enough desks to seat 80 per cent of its employees.

The  bureau had about 2800 public servants on its books as of June 2015, meaning that up to 560 public of its employees could be on teleworking arrangements at any given time.

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