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Issue #1704      September 30, 2015

Ten public service agencies strike

Tens of thousands of public sector workers at key agencies including Medicare, Centrelink and the Tax Office took strike action around the country last Thursday, adding to the pressure on the government as strike action continues at international airports.

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) advised that services may have been disrupted at customer service centres and call centres when the half-day action began at lunchtime, as workers stepped up their fight against the government’s attempts to cut their rights, conditions and for many, their take-home pay.

The half-day strike involved workers from the departments of Human Services, Employment, Environment, Education, Agriculture, Defence and Veteran Affairs, along with the Tax Office, the Bureau of Meteorology and the Bureau of Statistics.

CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood said: “These workers are extremely frustrated with the government’s 18-month attack on their rights and conditions. We are calling on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister Michaelia Cash to rethink this failed bargaining policy and work with the union to find a sensible way forward.

“This dispute was caused by government policy requiring Commonwealth agencies to go to war with their own workforce, to strip important workplace rights and conditions from enterprise agreements.”

Ms Flood noted that among striking members, for example, mums and dads working at Centrelink and Medicare are deeply worried about the loss of family-friendly conditions.

“The previous Minister responsible, Senator Eric Abetz, refused to even meet with the union to discuss these concerns since January 2014.

“New Minister Michaelia Cash is being sent a clear message by the strike, the ongoing airport action by Immigration and Border Force workers and by staff voting strongly to reject these unfair agreements when agencies have been forced to put them to an all employee ballot.

“Minister Cash now has a clear opportunity to move away from the failed bargaining policy of her predecessor and instead take a modern, productive approach to public sector workplace relations.

“Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has clearly stated that he does not want to wage war with workers or unions. We are calling on the government to change the way it deals with its own workforce.”

More than 100 government departments still do not have new enterprise agreements, representing 96 percent of total public service workforce.

Last week workers with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection became the latest to emphatically reject the government’s negotiating approach to date.

More than 91 percent or over 10,000 Immigration and Border Protection staff voted No to the proposed enterprise agreement, which would cut the take-home pay of many in the new Border Force by $8,000 a year, with a record 82 percent of all staff voting in the ballot.

Staff in many of the other agencies striking have also voted to reject these unacceptable deals, including an 83 percent No vote from the government’s largest department, Human Services.

Members in the ACT did not take part in the strike action on September 24 because they took successful action September 15.

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