CSDA workers campaign for new agreement
By Bill Mason
Workers in the Commonwealth Services Delivery Agency, now renamed Centrelink, are meeting on September 22-23 to discuss the next move in their campaign for a new agency agreement.
They are voting on a proposal from the CSDA section council of the Community and Public Sector Union for an industrial campaign, beginning with a two-hour stoppage on September 24 — the official launch day for Centrelink, involving ceremonies around the country and a major speech from Prime Minister John Howard.
Although CSDA management recently improved its offer to the union, important issues remain in dispute — primarily, wages, office opening hours and client-free time (management wants to abolish Wednesday afternoon early closing, inherited from the former Department of Social Security, which allow staff to hold essential meetings, training and catch-up processing).
Many workers are unhappy with the plan to replace the early closing with six hours' "client-free time" per fortnight, fearing that urgent "operational needs" will take priority over staff interests.
CSDA staff are also concerned about proposals to extend office hours, possibly to include week nights and Saturday mornings as well as public holidays. Although management states that extensions would be "voluntary", staff fear that pressure will be exerted to make the increased working hours mandatory in practice.
The main issue has become wage increases, which are proposed to be based on productivity improvements. How that will be calculated has not yet been fully spelled out.
Staff believe that in light of the substantial concessions they are being asked to make, they should receive pay rises of 6% for each of the next two years, and that funding should be supplemented to guard against job losses.
CSDA unionists will be voting on a resolution for action on September 24, followed by further two-hour stoppages and other measures.