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Issue #1687      June 3, 2015

Public sector workers’ anger grows

Industrial action over government attacks on public sector workplace rights, conditions and pay will intensify next month with half-day stoppages across the Commonwealth workforce, Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) national secretary Nadine Flood has told ACTU Congress, as she asks for the union movement to support CPSU members’ campaign.

ACTU Congress – “Safeguard – jobs, pay, rights”.

Mass meetings in 19 cities and regional centres to highlight the attacks on public sector workers are also planned in late June.

Public servants are angry at the Abbott government’s attack on their rights, conditions and take-home wages in bargaining. Industrial action is underway in more than 17 agencies or departments covering more than three-quarters of the Commonwealth workforce.

Speaking to an ACTU Congress session on Campaigning for Growth Ms Flood said the government’s woes are set to worsen as more public sector workers are poised to join imminently.

“It’s not going well for the government; workers in its soon-to-be-created Border Force are voting this week on taking industrial action. In just 24 hours, over 50 percent of Customs and Immigration CPSU members have participated in their protected action ballot, pointing to a victory for the union. On top of this the government’s strategy of picking what it described as a soft target with low union membership failed spectacularly this week when 77 percent of Department of Industry staff – not just union members – voted down a terrible offer.

“The government’s reaction over the past year has been to refuse to meet with us and then to continually attack the union in Parliament and the media. Earlier this week the government’s attack dog, Senator Cory Bernardi, sunk his teeth into us mentioning us more than 20 times in Senate Estimates and making comments about me such as ‘how does she sleep at night’. This is a million miles away from modern, productive workplace relations, where employers sit down with unions and have a sensible conversation,” Ms Flood said.

Ms Flood told Congress that from next month public servants will escalate their action and participate in a series of half-day stoppages to force the government to change its bargaining policy. The policy was released more than a year ago and is offering terms far more draconian than any major private sector employer.

“Workers are being told to cop cuts to rights and conditions, in return for pay offers so low they take real wages backwards.

“The government wants to remove up to 60 percent of the content of existing agreements – and I bet you can guess which bits they want to cut. Any rights that protect job security and workers right to representation by a union are gone.

“It’s way past time for someone in this government to see sense and decide it’s time to resolve this dispute. Despite the relentless attacks, we’re still up for sensible discussions. Our door is open; it’s just Minister Abetz’s that is padlocked shut. I’m even prepared to go to Bunnings and buy Senator Abetz a pair of bolt cutters, to unlock the door to talks.”

Next article – National School a great success

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