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Issue #1509      13 July 2011

Tax and Defence staff reject substandard offers

Employees in the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and Defence, two of the largest Australian public service agencies, have rejected proposed pay agreements, placing further pressure on the federal government and the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) over their flawed bargaining strategy.

Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) secretary Nadine Flood said that the government and APSC’s negative agenda of low pay offers and cuts to conditions meant that industrial action was now likely in a growing number of agencies.

“As of today there are 135,000 public servants whose pay deals have expired before a replacement has been finalised, compared with just 5,500 who have new agreements.”

Australian Taxation Office employees rejected the workplace agreement offered by their management, with 59 percent voting No. Employees at Defence voted No by a margin of 72 to 28 percent, a massive rejection of the Defence Department’s offer. This brings the number of APS employees in agencies who have rejected agreements to 57,000.

Ms Flood said a major concern with the Defence and Tax agreements was that the three percent annual pay rise on offer was in effect a real wage cut. Other concerns included job security and executive-level hours of work.

Ms Flood said there was a high level of frustration with the bargaining process and the sub-standard agreements offered to staff.

‘’These results in the second and third largest APS agencies send a clear signal to government and the APSC that they need to reconsider their approach. APS employees are facing a difficult – either accept substandard agreements with pay rises that don’t keep up with the cost of living, or undertake industrial campaigns to secure a better deal.

“Our negotiators are on stand-by, and we are ready and willing to restart real bargaining at any time. We still think that we can reach agreements, but it’s going to take a change of attitude.

“We would far prefer to reach agreement than to take industrial action, but unless there is change of heart on the management side, we are heading towards industrial action in key departments.”

The Department of Human Services – the largest APS agency – has backed away from presenting an agreement to staff, however the CPSU believes the deal is unlikely to be supported in its current form.

Employees at Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the Immigration Department have also rejected their agreement and lodged applications for protected action. Based on feedback from delegates, the union expects Customs staff will reject the agreement being put to them next week.

The attack on federal public servants follows in the same pattern as attacks by state governments on the pay, jobs and working conditions of state public sector employees.  

Next article – The invasion of Australia – official at last

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