The Victorian Government is using generous bonuses to prevent an employee exodus from VicRoads, as it gears up to partially privatise licensing and car registration.

    Some workers are being offered bonuses of up to $22,000 to stay when the Government-run Registration & Licensing and Custom Plates departments become part of a for-profit partnership with a private company.

    CarExpert understands around 900 people will be offered jobs in the joint venture, however it’s not clear how many qualify for the bonuses.

    A range of departments represented by different unions are involved in the switch, and in some cases negotiations about the joint venture are ongoing.

    If all 900 workers are offered the full $22,000 package, bonuses would total almost $20 million.

    Some employees are being offered a $2000 sign-on bonus for committing to the new public-private partnership, followed by a $10,000 bonus three months later.

    A further $10,000 is being offered to those who stick around for two years, according to an internal presentation viewed by CarExpert.

    “Redundancies are not on the table as part of this transition process,” VicRoads employees were told.

    Current full-time staff will be guaranteed a three-year contract, and have been offered assurances they’ll be employed in the Victorian Department of Transport if their role is swallowed by the joint venture (JV).

    Employees have told CarExpert they’re worried the move to even partial private ownership and management will degrade their working conditions.

    Despite the bonuses, the Australian Services Union (ASU, which represents VicRoads staff) said “workers at VicRoads will be worse off in the long run”.

    “The privatisation of VicRoads is a bad decision – it was a bad decision when announced, and it’s still a bad decision,” ASU assistant secretary Leon Wiegard told CarExpert.

    “The ASU has been able to make some improvements to the future conditions of workers at VicRoads who have been abandoned by the Andrews Government,” the spokesperson said.

    “Only private companies benefited from the privatisation of the SEC, and only private companies will benefit from the privatisation of VicRoads,” they said.

    “The Andrews Government can’t present itself as worker-friendly while treating VicRoads workers the way they have been treated.”

    A spokesperson from the Victorian Government told CarExpert the deals being negotiated with the Australian Services and Community & Public Sector unions “ensure worker’s rights and entitlements are fully protected as part of the Joint Venture”.

    “A joint venture model will combine the capability and experience of our staff with a private sector team that brings fresh perspectives on customer service delivery, technical innovation and best practice to improve customer experience for Victorians,” the Government spokesperson said.

    The State Government earlier in 2021 announced plans to pair with the private sector on Victoria’s licensing and registration, and is currently fielding bids from companies keen to take on the project.

    CarExpert understands registration and licensing in Victoria will transition from an arm of the Department of Transport to a holding company early in 2022 ahead of the public-private partnership.

    Staff will have the chance to opt into the joint venture by mid-2022.

    A private sector partner hasn’t yet been locked in.

    Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas didn’t rule out more expensive registration or licensing costs for motorists when a deal is struck.

    As a part of the proposed venture, the Government will own and manage “key regulatory functions” and control pricing for registration and licence renewals.

    It would also set the standards for data security and privacy.

    A private partner to the Government will earn a share of Victorian registration and licensing earnings, which last year totalled $1.8 billion.

    Mr Pallas said a public/private partnership will allow VicRoads to modernise its computer systems and processes, with the goal of providing better customer service.

    “The private sector are much better at delivering these tools,” Mr Pallas earlier this year told media.

    “They’re also much better at responding to customer needs.”

    The Government is seeking a 30 or 40-year partnership with the private sector.

    Scott Collie

    Scott Collie is an automotive journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Scott studied journalism at RMIT University and, after a lifelong obsession with everything automotive, started covering the car industry shortly afterwards. He has a passion for travel, and is an avid Melbourne Demons supporter.

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