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Issue #1695      July 29, 2015

Border Force staff actions

The CPSU has confirmed union members in the Australian Border Force Marine Unit are imposing a range of work bans as part of protected industrial action aimed at securing a fair enterprise agreement.

However, the union has emphatically rejected any suggestion that the protected industrial action its members are taking has resulted in an asylum-seeker vessel being located off the Dampier coast.

In a statement, CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood said:

“The protected industrial action underway includes a ban on a range of ‘in port’ activities such as loading/unloading stores, rubbish and equipment, pre-departure checks, routines and maintenance activities. These actions are causing some in-port delays.

“There is also a ban on members undertaking boarding or enforcement activities at sea which is primarily impacting on vessels targeting illegal foreign fishing activities.

“Australian Border Force Marine Unit staff take their responsibilities very seriously and have given commitments to ensure that none of the actions taken would compromise the safety of lives at sea.

“It is important to note that this protected industrial action, including ‘safety of lives at sea’ and national security safeguards, has been fully negotiated and properly notified with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and approved by the Fair Work Commission.

“Staff in the Australian Border Force Marine Unit have one of the toughest jobs in the public service. They are at sea and away from their families for up to a month at a time, often in very confronting and difficult situations.

“They literally put their lives on the line to keep Australia safe, yet the Abbott government continues to push a policy that will dramatically cut their take-home pay.

“Immigration and Border Force officers are being hit particularly hard by the Abbott government’s bargaining policy which forces agencies to cut many of the allowances many staff rely on to make up their pay packet.

“Under a new agreement many staff face losing $5,000 to $8,000 a year; highly specialised officers stand to lose even more. Many are worried about how they’ll pay their bills.

“They feel undervalued and disrespected by the Abbott government and are taking industrial action to show that they are serious about protecting their rights, conditions and take home pay.

“The Abbott government has slashed more than 17,000 public sector jobs and now it’s going after the conditions, rights, allowances and take-home wages of public sector workers.

“For the past year we’ve been asking the government to change its unworkable bargaining policy so that agencies can negotiate new agreements that protect the rights, conditions and take-home pay of public sector workers.

“This dispute could be easily resolved if the government is prepared to sit down with the union and discuss a sensible path to settlement,” said Ms Flood.

Background

Officers can receive allowances for a range of workplace situations including being at sea, using firearms, meeting high fitness standards, working long hours, unusual shifts and performing dirty and/or dangerous work. Some of the allowances at risk in the new agreement include:

  • Use of Force Allowance: for officers required to maintain specified fitness level so they can carry firearms
  • Marine and Marine Accommodation Allowances: for officers deployed at sea for up to 36 days at a time.

Next article – Rally against racism and fascism

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