BY BILL MASON
BRISBANE — Community and Public Sector Union members at Centrelink met November 27-29 and rejected management's offered enterprise agreement. CPSU members conducted a half-day strike on December 2, with another scheduled for December 13.
The draft agreement was seen as a step backwards for workers. It offered a 12.5% pay offer over three years; tightened part-time working conditions; and extended service delivery hours without provision for extra staffing. Centrelink stated that this was its final offer and refused to make any real concessions.
Workers are also angry at Centrelink's delaying of negotiations with the union, which did not start until April, a short time before the agreement expired. Managers have stated that Centrelink will abide by Department of Employment and Workplace Relations policy not to backdate pay rises. This means that the new deal will in effect be over three and a half years.
Staff were further angered by an email that CEO Sue Vardon sent to one worker in reply to his criticism of the pay offer. She stated that the offer was a reasonable one in a very competitive world. However, it was her blunt warning that "Perhaps you would be more satisfied working for someone else who pays more" which enraged staff.
From Green Left Weekly, December 11, 2002.
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