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Issue #1703      September 23, 2015

10 days of airport turbulence

Passengers at all eight international airports around the country have been warned of potential disruption, as Immigration and Border Force workers launch at least 10 days of strike action to defend their rights, conditions and take-home pay.

Staff processing both departing and arriving travellers on international flights are preparing to stop work for two hours, twice a day –during the morning and afternoon peaks. Action has been notified from Monday September 21 through to Wednesday September 30.

These strikes are part of an ongoing campaign as staff grow increasingly frustrated at government policy which seeks to cut many rights, conditions and allowances, cutting current pay for many staff by $8,000 a year.

Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) secretary Nadine Flood said: “These workers are angry, they’re under pressure, they face major cuts to their take-home pay and workplace rights and government simply hasn’t listened. Border Force workers feel they have no choice but to act, so they are prepared to strike every day, twice a day over peak periods, over 10 days.

“Rather than deal sensibly with the core issue, Border Force is flying large teams of managers all over the country to act as strike breakers at airports at vast expense. They’re turning heavy handed tactics on their own workforce.

“This million-dollar band-aid operation means the impact of strike action on the travelling public will be unpredictable and may vary from place to place and day to day.”

Ms Flood said that rather than ask government for sensible changes so they can actually negotiate, Border Force management is focussing all their efforts on a band-aid operation.

“Border Force workers are calling on their managers to reject these nasty divide-and-rule tactics and to join the union so they can refuse to act as strike breakers.

“The government and the Department have had well over a year to sit down with the union and work out a fair deal. These men and women work in important, difficult and sometimes dangerous jobs to keep all Australians safe. They deserve better treatment from the government.

“This campaign will end when the federal government takes $8,000 cuts to take-home pay off the table and works with us to find a sensible resolution to an 18-month bargaining dispute.

“We are calling on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to make resolving this dispute a public service priority, with a Minister who’s prepared to talk and hear workers’ legitimate concerns.”

There will also be disruptions for international cargo and mail as workers in other essential roles also strike on selected days, including biosecurity, the Dog Detector Unit and Maritime Operations.

Workers in other agencies, including Human Services, the Tax Office, Defence, DVA, ABS, Environment and Employment are also planning further strike action on Thursday 24 September.

Meanwhile, frustrated with the government’s continuing attack on their rights, conditions and take-home pay, thousands of public sector workers have launched another major round of national industrial action including strikes across the country.

The latest round of action in the long-running bargaining dispute kicked off with a lunch-time rally and half-day strike on September 15 involving Canberra-based members from agencies including Human Services, the Tax Office, Immigration and Border Protection and Employment.

This action has continued with further strikes and industrial action around Australia which affect service centres, call-centres, international airports, ports and a range of other public service workplaces.

At the same time as stepping up industrial action, the CPSU is exploring sensible avenues for resolving bargaining. Feedback has been received from over a thousand union delegates and has been taken to union members.

Public sector workers in Veterans’ Affairs, IP Australia, Health, and the government’s largest agency, Human Services, overwhelmingly rejected proposed agreements that would have attacked their rights, conditions and take home pay.

The agreement in Human Services was voted down by 83 percent of staff. Nadine Flood said: “We are happy to meet with Senator Abetz – anytime, anywhere about sensible solutions, but the government seems more interested in grandstanding and fighting their workforce.

“Public sector workers are angry with a government that continues to denigrate the work they do and now wants to rip away their rights, conditions and take home pay.

“These workers are facing nasty, low-ball agreements that strip important workplace rights and conditions from enterprise agreements. Under this policy, Immigration and Border Force workers stand to lose up to $8,000 in stripped allowances, while working parents in Centrelink and Medicare are being pushed to give up essential work and family protections and other rights.

“After more than a year of stop/start bargaining, less than 2 percent of public sector workers have new enterprise agreements in place. That figure alone shows the government’s bargaining policy is simply not working and needs to change.”

More than 17,000 public service jobs have been cut since the Coalition government took office. Now pay, conditions and rights are being threatened. The union points out that this is no way to run a modern, professional public sector.

“Over recent months we’ve seen unprecedented levels of industrial action by thousands of public sector workers. This will continue unless the government drops its attacks and sits down with the CPSU to try and find a common sense settlement,” warned Ms Flood.

“All these workers are asking for is the continuing protection of their existing rights and conditions and a fair pay rise to cover the cost of living in return for delivering high quality services to the Australian community.”

Next article – UN Sustainable Development Goals at risk

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