Community and Public Service Union (CPSU) members at the Bureau of Meteorology and Agriculture Department, including Quarantine and Meat Inspectors, are the latest in a growing number of public servants taking industrial action to highlight the federal government’s attacks on workers’ rights, pay and conditions.
Members held one hour stop-work meetings on May 19, part of a week of rolling stoppages across the Commonwealth public service that has already seen tens of thousands of CPSU members walk off the job in Centrelink, Medicare, Child Support and the Tax Office.
CPSU members in the departments of Defence, Veterans Affairs and Employment are expected to hold similar stoppages in the near future. Agencies including the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Customs and Immigration are also preparing to take or are taking industrial action in protest at government plans to cut conditions in return for low pay offers.
The protected industrial action is designed to highlight growing anger about the Tony Abbott government's attacks on public service workplace rights and employment conditions.
CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “Public sector workers don’t take industrial action lightly but they have been pushed to this point by a belligerent government that has cut 17,300 jobs and is now intent on attacking the living standards, pay and conditions of 160,000 public servants.
“The deals this government are offering across the public service are so draconian no one could accept them.
“Workers are being asked to cop a massive cut to rights and conditions, in return for low pay offers averaging less than 1% a year that leave real wages going backwards.
As well as stoppages, CPSU members are imposing work bans, such as refusing to enter internal codes when processing work, taking synchronised (rather than staged) lunch breaks and reading statements to clients explaining their grievances.
More than 1.5 million leaflets are being distributed to the public by CPSU members during the first week of the campaign. Rolling action is expected to continue and escalate from this point.
The federal government’s “Smaller Government Reform Agenda” has already seen 286 government bodies axed, with 35 other agencies to be cut.
Departments will also see further funding cuts under ongoing “Functional and Efficiency Reviews”. The government has revealed that cuts totalling $1.4 billion have already been made, with a further $450 million to be saved from the Health, Education and Immigration departments.