Employees at the Department of Human Services (DHS) voted to reject an enterprise agreement proposed by management, which would have covered 42,000 staff. Seventy three percent of those who took part in the ballot voted “no”.
More than 120,000 public servants from agencies such as defence, customs and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry have now rejected inadequate agreements. Industrial action has occurred in some places.
Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) national secretary Nadine Flood said on September 12: “There is growing concern across the Australian Public Service about the lack of progress on bargaining and the inflexible approach taken by the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) and the government.”
She said DHS staff were concerned about the cuts to conditions offered in the agreement and the lack of genuine negotiations from management.
Flood said: “Staff are being asked to be more ‘flexible’ which in practice means that they are being asked to work weekends or inconvenient hours and get nothing in return.
“On top of this, the 3% [a year] they and other public servants are being offered will not even keep up with the rising cost of living.”
Civilian defence department staff walked off the job for several hours on September 13 to vote on escalating their industrial action over stalled pay negotiations.
The action follows a similar protest last month, in which thousands of workers from more than 70 bases and offices around Australia walked off the job in protest at the 3% a year limit on pay rises.
CPSU national president Michael Tull said on September 12: “With the cost of living now increasing by 3.6% a year, this deal is effectively a pay cut.”