Security at all Australian airports was stepped up over the Easter break following last week’s Brussels attacks – yet everything ran pretty smoothly at airports, thanks to a landmark decision by a major player in airport security.
People departing on interstate or international flights were advised at the end of last week to get to the airport earlier than usual.
The big challenge foreseen earlier in the week, however, was a planned 24-hour strike by the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) members in Immigration, Border Protection and Agriculture – including at international airports. It was planned for Easter Thursday, when thousands of Australians were due to head away on holiday.
After the Brussels atrocity, including the attack on the city’s main airport, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called on union members in Australia’s Immigration and Border Force not to strike as planned.
The CPSU quickly agreed to postpone the strike action. Unions catch their share of criticism, but not in this case.
CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood said: “The CPSU is postponing its strike action at international airports and elsewhere today, and over the Easter long weekend.”
Flood issued the following statement: “We offer our sympathy to victims of the Brussels attacks. I think every Australian would be deeply disturbed by the awful events in Europe.
“We have agreed to Prime Minister Turnbull’s request to postpone these strikes in good faith and conscious of the understandable concern of travellers in wake of the Brussels attacks.
“I should note that our members would never take industrial action that compromises Australia’s national security at this time, or at any time. Throughout our long two-year campaign to protect these workers, we have specifically exempted Immigration and Border Protection officers in counter terrorism, national security and intelligence roles from undertaking action and we have worked closely with the Department on that matter.
“The Prime Minister has said that Immigration and Border Force officers should pursue their concerns over their rights through means other than going on strike. The problem here is they don’t have another option.
“These officers are deeply angry and disappointed that after six months the Prime Minister has still given them no-one in Government to talk to, no avenue to actually pursue these concerns and they still face attacks on their rights and, for a number of officers, cuts to their take-home pay. That’s why they are striking, that’s why this dispute needs to be resolved.
“The Government has refused to talk to us since last October despite this dispute affecting 130,000 Commonwealth employees. Every Commonwealth agency, Immigration and Border Protection included, is bound by Government bargaining policy forcing them to cut workers’ rights.
“These workers are going on strike because they’ve got nowhere else to go. We are calling on the Prime Minister to give us someone to talk to – to listen to these workers’ concerns. These are real people, protecting our borders, doing critical work and it’s important that we get these issues resolved in a sensible, calm manner. Unfortunately, thus far Government hasn’t come to the table.”
Edited by Peter Needham