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Issue #1722      March 9, 2016

Easter strikes to put pressure on govt

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) is preparing for strike action across the Commonwealth public sector starting before Easter, including at international airports, unless the Turnbull government immediately agrees to discussions on fixing their bargaining policy mess, as this industrial dispute hits its two year anniversary without a solution.

Thousands of CPSU members are preparing to strike for 24 hours on Monday, March 21 across areas including Medicare, Centrelink, Child Support, the Tax Office, Defence, the Bureau of Meteorology, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Bureau of Statistics.

Border Force officers and other staff in the Department of Immigration and Border Protection will then walk off the job at international airports, freight terminals and other sites on Easter Thursday, March 24.

In addition the CPSU is actively considering a three week campaign of rolling airport strikes over the Easter school holidays if the government continues with their attack on workplace rights and refuses to work with the union on a reasonable public sector bargaining outcome.

CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood said: “The scale of these strikes shows just how frustrated the mums and dads working across the Commonwealth public sector are. They’ve suffered two years of an attack on their rights, yet the government’s flawed bargaining policy is still forcing agencies to cut essential rights and conditions now and move other rights out of agreements so they can be unilaterally scrapped down the track.”

“The government’s policy is even worse for some, such as the cuts to take-home pay still being pushed on many hard working Border Force officers, but there’s a common threat to the family friendly conditions that allow people to juggle their work with parenting and other family responsibilities.

“There isn’t a major private sector employer in the country who has had a two-year stoush with their own workforce trying to make workers give up a raft of their existing rights, including family friendly conditions, in return for a two year wage freeze and two percent a year after that. This is an Eric Abetz policy special which Minister Michaelia Cash has tinkered with, but not actually addressed workers’ genuine concerns at giving up their rights.”

The union points out that is why 130,000 people who work in the public sector still don’t have a new enterprise agreement, almost eighty-five percent of the total workforce. They know that they’re better off rejecting dud deals until something reasonable is on offer, as they have with results such as the nearly eighty percent No vote in the Department of Human Services, eighty-five percent No at the Tax Office and ninety-one percent No in the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

“Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has nearly three weeks to avoid this action, but we reckon it could be resolved in three days if they’re willing to talk genuinely with us about fixing this mess. Minister Michaelia Cash and other government representatives have been dishonestly saying they’re not talking to the union because agency heads are the negotiators, except agency heads have repeatedly told us they can’t offer anything reasonable because they’re bound by the government’s bargaining policy. This policy prevents agencies from meaningfully negotiating on the issues workers care most deeply about.”

Most CPSU members have not had a pay rise since 2013 and want the mess resolved, but not if it means they can’t pick their son or daughter up from childcare or even know which office they’ll be working in from month to month.

“Many of these people were optimistic they’d finally be treated fairly and sensibly when Mr Turnbull toppled Tony Abbott nearly six months ago, but time is running out for the Prime Minister to prove that anything has changed under his leadership at all,” Flood said.

Next article – Strength in the union

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