Strikes ramp up to get Abetz' attention
The Community and Public Sector Union says its next round of industrial action will be noticed, after initial low-level actions left public service minister Eric Abetz completely unfazed.
The union says it will launch half-day strikes at federal government departments in June, the next step in the long-running pay dispute between the Abbott government and its public servants.
CPSU leader Nadine Flood told a the ACTU Congress in Melbourne this week that “mass meetings” of public servants were also planned in 19 cities and regional centres across Australia.
But Mr Abetz says the union is standing between public servants and any future pay rise.
“She must also explain why she continues to demand pay rises of 12 per cent, which would cost the jobs of 10,000 public servants,” a spokesperson for Mr Abetz told Fairfax Media reporters.
“To add insult to injury she now wants to cost her members half a day's pay.”
The new Public Service Commissioner, John Lloyd, slammed the union's approach to the bargaining process for 160,000 Commonwealth workers as well.
None of the 115 federal public service agreements currently under negotiation have approached finalisation under the federal government's tough bargaining stance.
The government negotiators seem unwilling not to link pay rises to productivity gains.
The CPSU has been orchestrating action by its members in 17 federal departments, including massive workplaces Defence and Human Services, but the low-level action has had no effect on government policy.
There was a setback in the Government’s campaign this week with the crushing defeat of a pay deal in a ballot of workers at the Department of Industry; a workforce with low union membership and no tradition of workplace action.
Insiders say there is trouble ahead at the politically-sensitive Immigration Department too, where Customs officials were asked to take a pay cut to join the controversial Australian Border Force.
Speaking at the ACTU Congress, Ms Flood said she believed CPSU members at the soon-to-be merged Immigration and Customs workforce would look to strike.
“It's not going well for the government, workers in its soon-to-be-created Border Force are voting this week on taking industrial action,” the union leader told the congress.
“In just 24 hours, over 50 per cent of Customs and Immigration CPSU members have participated in their protected action ballot, pointing to a victory for the union.”
“On top of this, its strategy of picking what they described as a soft target with low union membership failed spectacularly this week when 77 per cent of Department of Industry staff – not just union members – voted down a terrible offer.”