The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) is calling on the Turnbull government to improve its bargaining policy to allow federal agencies to make acceptable enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) offers to public sector workers. Despite a small increase in the government's pay guideline from 1.5 to 2%, union members are insisting on a minimum rise of at least 2.5 to 3%.
According to the CPSU, a recent survey of 7000 CPSU members indicated that a majority of members thought a pay outcome of 2.5 to 3% would be fair and realistic, as long as the cuts to rights, conditions and take-home pay were dropped.
This follows a 24-hour strike by Border Force and Immigration staff at international airports on November 9, affecting customs and other services around the country. Although non-union management staff were able to hold the line for the day, threats of further industrial action will test the department's resources considerably.
CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood said on November 10: "Thousands of Border Force officials will face losing up to $8000 a year from their pay, and there is a smaller group of highly specialised officers and officers working in remote locations who face, in some cases, losses of up to $20,000 a year.
Following a series of very strong No votes and extensive industrial action in a range of key agencies, the government finally agreed to meet with the union and announced some revisions to their failed bargaining policy. But CPSU bargaining teams report that the new bargaining policy has not made a significant difference to negotiations.
Based on the revised policy, agencies are still putting forward agreements that strip away work and family protections, rights giving staff a voice at work and other essential conditions; and the government is still arguing that public sector workers have to accept these cuts as "productivity gains".
They argue this despite the fact that 17,700 jobs have been cut and there has been major restructuring and changes to work across the public service. CPSU members are considering further industrial action if the government insists on maintaining the cuts.