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Issue #1666      November 26, 2014

Employment Dept staff likely to reject “nasty” deal

Employment Minister Eric Abetz’s hardline approach to public sector pay and conditions is facing a big test with staff in his own department set to vote on a deal that cuts a raft of their conditions and rights in return for a pay rise of less than 1% a year.

The Minister’s own staff are expected to vote on a new agreement in early December but already a survey of workers indicates the Department’s proposals are unacceptable. The Department is proposing a pay rise of 0.5% a year in return for cutting a raft of conditions, or 1% if staff also increase working hours, with the loss of 46 jobs.

Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) national secretary Nadine Flood said: “Employment staff are angry and disappointed by these mean and nasty proposals, but they are not surprised by them.

“Bargaining across the public service has become a battleground as workers face wholesale cuts to their conditions and rights in return for pay offers under 1%.

“Minister Abetz is the one who imposed this unworkable policy on Departments and now he is trying to get his own staff to swallow the dud deal the government’s policy has produced.

“More than 70 public service agencies have been trying to bargain under his policy for the last six months and not one has been able to present a reasonable deal to staff. Does he really expect his own staff to stomach such a terrible deal?” asked Ms Flood.

Staff are particularly alarmed by the fact that in order to meet government bargaining rules, the Department of Employment is required to cut 46 jobs over the life of the agreement.

Last week Human Services staff voted overwhelmingly for industrial action in protest at a proposal that will see two thirds of their rights stripped and cuts to conditions for an annual pay offer of below 1%. An industrial action ballot at Veterans’ Affairs is currently underway.

The cuts to conditions and rights in the proposed Employment Department agreement include the removal of protection around 15.4% super, making it harder for staff to progress to higher levels, cutting employees rights to be represented by a union, increasing working hours, stopping offices from closing early on Christmas Eve and many others.

“This offer to Minister Abetz’s own staff shows how ludicrous the government’s policy is. These show that while the Department has gained efficiencies in travel, accommodation, printing, reducing duplication and simplifying business processes, none of these count in bargaining under Minister Abetz’s rules. He defines productivity as new cuts to employees’ conditions that provide cashable savings. It is a bizarre, alternate IR universe.

“This deal for Employment staff follows the script that Minister Abetz has written for public service bargaining – strip away important rights, make it easier to sack public servants, and remove protections around their super, all for a 0.5% pay rise, way below the cost of living.

That is why public servants are moving towards industrial action to try and press government for a fairer approach to their working conditions.

“Minister Abetz needs to acknowledge that his approach is not working and agree to sit down with the CPSU to work out a sensible way forward. I’ve left the door open but the Minister refuses to meet and discuss the government’s policy,” said Ms Flood.

Next article – Workers reject roster offer at Gorgon

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