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Issue #1710      November 11, 2015

Strike hits airports

Immigration and Border Force workers took 24-hour strike action at Australia’s eight international airports and other key sites on Monday, as part of their campaign against the federal government’s unfair attack on their rights, conditions and take-home pay.

The all-day industrial action, which started just after midnight on Sunday, is an escalation on the 10 days of rolling two-hour stoppages that caused substantial disruption to international air passengers and businesses in September.

Among those giving up a day’s pay to participate in the 24-hour strike will be hundreds of Border Force officers in freight areas who were harshly stood down and docked all pay for implementing limited and fully approved work bans.

Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) national secretary Nadine Flood said: “These Border Force officers work on the front line in keeping Australia safe and they take no pleasure in disrupting travellers’ plans. They’re giving up a day’s pay to strike because the federal government and the Department are not listening to them and are continuing to push unreasonable cuts to rights, conditions and take-home pay.

“These workers are angry because their boss is trying to cut their pay by $8,000 a year – and then accusing them of not living in the real world when they object. More than 10,000 Immigration and Borders staff have already voted against this proposal, but the government’s not listening.

She said the workers are ordinary mums and dads worried about losing their rights and paying their bills. “Border Force officers have copped this attack all year and they want Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister Michaelia Cash to fix it. We are asking the government to drop these attacks, sit down and talk to find a fair and realistic outcome, which maintains workers’ rights with a reasonable pay offer around 2.5% to 3%.

“We expect Border Force to continue their heavy-handed tactics in response to workers’ concerns, including the expensive use of managers who are flown around the country to act as strike breakers. We hope they don’t cut corners just for the sake of limiting delays.”

As with previous industrial action at airports and other key locations, the CPSU agreed to exclude staff in some roles from striking to protect counter terrorism and national security.

Meanwhile, the fight to protect public sector rights, conditions and real wages has landed on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s own doorstop, with the CPSU seeking a ballot allowing protected industrial action in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C).

The CPSU has lodged an application for a Protected Action Ballot with the Fair Work Commission. If the ballot is successful it will give CPSU members working within PM&C the legal right to strike and implement a range of internally focussed work bans designed to put pressure on the agency and government over unfair cuts to rights and conditions.

The move towards industrial action follows last month’s clear 78 percent No vote by PM&C workers to an enterprise agreement that would have cut their rights and conditions.

Nadine Flood said: “Our members in Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s own department have been saying for some time that they want to step up their fight against the government’s unfair bargaining policy. We decided to hold off and give Prime Minister Turnbull and Minister Michaelia Cash a chance to fix this mess. The government’s bargaining policy still makes a resolution almost impossible and, based on their feedback, members will now have the opportunity to vote on industrial action.”

The clear 78 percent No vote from PM&C staff on the Department’s unfair enterprise agreement last month makes it clear the workers will not accept having their rights and conditions stripped in return for an 18-month wage freeze and then a sub-standard pay offer.

Workers in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet are dealing with the bargaining mess at the same time as they have had to cope with major restructuring that brings together staff from 10 separate agencies who are all on different terms and conditions. The government’s bargaining policy has only added to the pressure of what was already a difficult challenge.

“Immigration and Border Force workers – 91 percent of whom voted No to another unfair agreement – have shown they won’t be intimidated by proceeding with work bans despite management’s decision to stand them down and dock their wages,” saod Ms Flood.

“Prime Minister Turnbull and Minister Cash shouldn’t need any more convincing that public sector bargaining is a real-world problem that needs fixing. We are asking them to genuinely consider our proposals for fair and realistic outcomes by moving to maintain rights and conditions and providing a reasonable pay offer.”

Next article – Why we remember the Russian Revolution

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