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Issue #1749      September 21, 2016

Airport strikes intensify

Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) members working in Immigration and Border Force are preparing to take their most intense and widespread strike action to force a resolution to a dispute that has run for more than 1,000 days.

The union has begun notifying extensive rolling stoppages by staff across the Department of Immigration and Border Protection at international airports, cruise ship terminals, cargo facilities and elsewhere across the Department beginning on Monday September 26 until Sunday October 2, with further action planned as needed.

The union has notified industrial action over all DIBP operations, with 30-minutes strikes available to CPSU members all day, every day. The CPSU expects multiple short strikes to cause significant disruption and delays.

CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood said: “This will be strike action on a major scale, an unprecedented escalation to make government finally do something to end this 1000-day dispute.

“The Turnbull government and the department have done absolutely nothing to fix this mess that they created. In fact for thousands of Border Force officers the latest offer was even worse than the dud deal 81% of the Department’s staff rejected in March.

“Immigration and Border Force staff have compromised and continue to be willing to accept something sensible, but they won’t and can’t accept losing important rights and conditions for a pay rise of just on 1% a year, let alone the pay cuts still being pushed on many of these workers.

“Based on previous experience this strike action has the potential to cause more significant disruption and delays for international air passengers and others, but it’s important to emphasise that our members don’t take industrial action to inconvenience the public. They do it because it’s one of the only tools they’ve got to fight for a fair deal.”

This round of action is on a larger scale than any before but numerous exemptions remain in place to ensure national security and the safety of the general public. The union says that members would never take action that would compromise that, despite the misleading and contradictory statements of the department and the government.

“It’s not too late to avert this action,” said Flood. “Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister Michaelia Cash can sit down and talk, which they’ve repeatedly refused to do. We could sort DIBP and other Commonwealth agencies bargaining relatively quickly if the government was prepared to abandon their reckless attack on rights and conditions to find a sensible solution. Ministers can keep attacking the CPSU, but that doesn’t explain why over 74,000 workers have voted to reject the government’s offers in 2016 alone.

“There are no real negotiations, just agencies being ordered to follow the government’s whacky bargaining policy while the Minister refuses to discuss sensible changes that would fix this mess. Instead they’re still trying to force workers to accept cuts to rights and conditions while freezing their pay since 2013. It’s a vicious, nasty approach.”

Flood said the government has a clear choice. “It can sit down with us, drop the cuts and try to resolve the dispute in good faith, or it can exercise its rights through the Fair Work Commission. If the government tries again to have our industrial action suspended by the Fair Work Commission, we will argue it’s time to terminate this bargaining charade and have the independent umpire arbitrate an outcome.”

Next article – The legacy of Eureka – An interview in labour history

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