Australia Post workers fight pay cuts during pandemic

Photo: CEPU Tasmania / Facebook

Australia Post (AP) workers have asked the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU) to hold a ballot for industrial action. They are fighting for better work conditions and a pay rise.

CEPU Communication section organiser Paul Sutton said workers decided to take industrial action only after receiving a pay cut during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“[Australia] Post hasn’t been able to keep a lid of all the waste and excess at their corporate level and workers are incensed that, although they were the ones who kept the critical public service of post continuing through Covid, they have had their modest claims ignored.”

“Workers have instructed the union to commence a ballot for industrial action,” Sutton said, adding that it is “an absolute last resort”. It will show AP management “who is critical in delivering Tassie’s and Australia’s mail”.

Postal workers have been trying to negotiate an enterprise agreement with AP for more than a year.

During the COVID-19 lockdown last year, AP enforced a special memorandum of understanding, which the CEPU described as a “betrayal” because it enforced a pay cut of up to 30%, cut delivery standards and prohibited industrial action.

The union said the cuts to deliveries came “under the guise of pandemic safety when the reality on the ground was [that Australia] Post made a shameful effort to keep workers safe”. Postal workers said that, as an example, AP was slow to implement personal protective equipment.

Sutton said the so-called “delivery model” changes, which would reduce delivery frequency, were a deflection from the real problem — understaffing.

“The delivery model change was a smoke screen to test [the] public appetite [on the] degradation of postal services and distract from the actual problem which was the Postal service was too understaffed to cope with huge increase in small parcels.”

This is why AP could not cope with the increased demand during COVID-19.

According to the CEPU, AP has tried to prevent workers from participating in bargaining and taking protected industrial action.

Sutton said that AP’s conduct in bargaining had given workers no choice but to take action. “Instead of taking workers' claims seriously, AP has made attempts to bar workers from participating in bargaining and using their fundamental rights to protected action so they can impose yet another flawed, destructive delivery model on communities.”

The protected industrial action ballot takes about 30 days.

When contacted directly for a comment, AP rejected the union’s claim. A spokesperson told Green Left: “There have been no pay cuts for Tasmanian Australia post workers during COVID-19”.

They also said that AP workers had been provided with a one-off, special “thank you” payment.

AP has yet to give a public response to the CEPU’s claims.