Gov't workers strike for half-day


Quarantine staff at Australia's international airports walked off the job for four hours on August 19.

The action was part of a campaign by Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) members working in the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) to win a better enterprise agreement.

The strike caused some delays at the airports, and affected cargo inspections, the release of imported goods and the x-ray screening of international mail.

The DAFF strike, which followed a two-hour stoppage by DAFF workers the previous week, reflected growing dissatisfaction among public service workers about the way the federal Labor government is handling pay negotiations.

The government is trying to limit pay rises to 3% a year. The Consumer Price Index, however, is rising at an annual rate of 3.6% and the Analytic Cost of Living Index for employee households is rising at 4.5%.

So far, more than 80,000 staff in agencies such as the immigration department, customs and the tax office have voted to reject proposed enterprise agreements because they included low pay offers and, in some cases, cuts to conditions.

Civilian workers in the defence department have voted for "protected" (legal) industrial action in a ballot.

CPSU negotiators have walked out of negotiations with Australian Taxation Office management and are planning to take the ATO to Fair Work Australia over its failure to provide information on productivity savings.

In theory, productivity growth could enable pay rises above 3% under the government's guidelines.

Workers at the Northbridge tax office in Perth built a pyramid of toilet paper outside the office on August 18 to show their opinion of management's offer.

Nadine Flood, the national secretary of the CPSU, said on August 17: “If there is not a change of attitude from the government, and a move to real bargaining, then we are likely to see more industrial action.”

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