Australia’s main public service union has warned of “significant disruptions and delays” at international airports today as its members at key agencies, including Immigration and Border Protection, walk-off the job in a dispute with the Abbott government.
The major impact is expected in the busy Monday morning peak at international airports as the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) begins a new round of industrial action this week.
CPSU members in the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) will walk off the job today (Monday 3 August) in a series of rolling four-hour work stoppages to protest against what it terms an attack by the Abbott Government on members’ rights, conditions and take-home pay.
CPSU members in the Department of Agriculture (including Quarantine) will also take a range of industrial action including stoppages and bans in various sites during the same period.
At the same time, the Australian Border Force Marine Unit will undertake “in port” bans – loading/unloading stores, rubbish and equipment, pre-departure checks, routines and maintenance activities – over the coming week.
Union members who have essential national security, counter-terrorism and specialist biosecurity hazard roles in DIBP and the Department of Agriculture will be exempt from taking action.
Meanwhile CPSU members at international airports and other public-facing workplaces are continuing with mass leafleting, handing out hundreds of thousands of authorised CPSU flyers to customers about the Abbott Government’s alleged attack on public services, conditions and take-home pay.
This latest round of action follows a series of rolling half-day strikes in recent months which affected 16 government agencies across the country.
CPSU national cecretary Nadine Flood said: “Public sector workers on our borders undertake important, difficult and sometimes dangerous jobs on behalf of our community. They deserve better than the Abbott Government’s attack on their rights, conditions and take home pay.”
“The Abbott Government has cut more than 17,000 public sector jobs and is now going after the pay and conditions of those left.
“Workers are facing the loss of up to AUD 8000 a year – even more for those in remote areas or with specialised skills – from their take-home pay. The Abbott Government is insisting the Department take an axe to the allowances that make up much of their pay packets which compensate them for weeks away from family at sea, using firearms, meeting high fitness standards, working long hours, unusual shifts and performing dirty and/or dangerous work.
“The Abbott Government and the Department have had more than a year to sit down with the union and work out a fair deal that protects the rights, conditions and take home pay of these hardworking people. Instead, agencies are being told they must put forward draconian deals worse than any major private sector employer.
“These workers are dedicated to their jobs, but they will not simply give up important rights, conditions and take home pay without a fight.
“While this action will impact on the public, the real target is the Abbott Government’s unfair and unworkable bargaining policy which stands between these workers and getting a fair deal.
“Minister [Eric] Abetz will no doubt come out with his usual line about excessive pay claims, but I have now said countless times that all these workers expect is to maintain their rights and real wages. The more he says it, the angrier these workers get. They are facing massive cuts to their current pay packets but the Minister won’t even meet and discuss this dispute with their union.
“The Abbott Government can end the disruptions by stopping its attack on the rights, conditions and take home pay of these workers,” Flood said.
Employment and Public Service Minister Senator Abetz commented that it was counterproductive for the CPSU to organise industrial action “in support of its claim for a 12% pay rise which is utterly unrealistic and would cost the jobs of 10,000 public servants”.
On the surface of it, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of room for negotiation there.
Written by Peter Needham