By Rob Heller
MELBOURNE — A CES service was closed here last week in the midst of a national industrial dispute between Community and Public Sector Union members and the federal Department of Employment, Education and Training over staff cuts. On September 18, CPSU members at Melbourne CES picketed on Flinders Street in the city centre to mark the closure of the city Job Placement Centre after long-term mismanagement and being starved of staff.
A banner reading "Don't close the CES" accompanied the CPSU banner at the picket. DEET workers from the Footscray, Brunswick, Area North East, St Kilda, Melbourne Student Assistance Centre and the Exhibition Street offices attended. CPSU members from the Departments of Industry and Technology, Social Security, Veterans Affairs, AusAid and Telecom also joined the protest.
"Management at all levels have treated workers with contempt. They are making people physically sick. It's disgusting," one worker said. Another added, "Ten per cent unemployment is hardly the time to be closing CES offices. 'Working Nation' is a bloody joke."
Earlier this year, CES workers across Australia enforced industrial bans over the loss of staff and services, which culminated in a strike. The matter was referred to the Industrial Relations Commission, which concluded that the workers had suffered "harsh and unreasonable" increases in workload due to staff shortages and recommended that the CES be increased by 520 staff.
The federal government snubbed the IRC by cutting the budget of DEET and staff numbers by 700.
While jobs are lost, millions of dollars are spent on advertising "Working Nation" which includes the National Training Wage scheme. This allows employers to pay under-award wages as low as $125 per week.
[Rob Heller is the CPSU delegate at Melbourne CES.]