Arbitration in DEET dispute

Issue 

Arbitration in DEET dispute

By Paul O'Brien

CANBERRA — Department of Employment, Education and Training (DEET) staff in the ACT voted for a national delegates committee recommendation to lift all bans and other industrial action on February 10 to allow the Industrial Relations Commission to conciliate and arbitrate on staffing levels for the new Employment Assistance Australia (EAA) case management agency.

An in-principle document signed by the national president of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), Peter Robson, and the secretary of DEET, Derek Volker, was the subject of the recommendation. DEET is offering only 400 staff, 150 of which appear to be new positions, and 250 from "streamlining" cuts in other areas. The union is claiming 782 staff for the new agency.

The document also claims lack of agreement on funding and calls on the IRC to conciliate or arbitrate. There is also to be a review of the CES staffing formula (known as WIRES).

The other remarkable feature is the IRC's willingness to arbitrate on a staffing dispute. In agency/enterprise bargaining, the IRC is meant to keep "hands off". In this case, the IRC refused to give stand down orders, initially telling the parties to negotiate, and then accepting the suggestion by the national office of the CPSU to arbitrate on staffing levels.

Arbitration is unlikely to give workers or the unemployed the necessary resources to carry out the functions called for in the white paper. The pro-Labor national leadership of the CPSU has again snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by making the arbitration suggestion at the moment of highest mobilisation of DEET CPSU members.

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