Human Services staff renew strike action

March 31, 2017

Members of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) working in the Department of Human Services (DHS) resumed rolling strike action on March 24 in support of their longstanding struggle for a new enterprise agreement.

The workers in DHS, which includes Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support, had already begun work bans as part of their campaign.

CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood said on March 23: "This protracted dispute [has] gone on for far, far too long. It's bad for people working in Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support; it's bad for their families and it's bad for the essential services our members in DHS provide. That's why our members are going back on strike.

"We agreed in February to hold off taking fresh industrial action and instead proceed with negotiations overseen by the Fair Work Commission. The CPSU has negotiated in good faith, but unfortunately DHS stands out from other Commonwealth agencies, where we are making progress.

"Thousands of DHS workers have been stuck in this dispute for more than three years, without a pay rise. We're talking about part-time working mums on around $40,000 a year, who are doing it really tough. All they want to do is hold on to rights and conditions that have been in place for many years and allow them to balance their working and family lives.

"The department and Employment Minister Michaelia Cash have previously ignored the unacceptable disadvantage to working parents that this dispute is really about. Australians rely on this department to provide essential services, so the government should start treating DHS and the people who work there with respect.

"DHS is an agency in crisis because of the Turnbull government's attacks on it. Our community and workers are struggling, with 36 million phone calls to the agency going unanswered last year and 5000 permanent jobs slashed. Resolving bargaining would be an important first step to getting this agency back on track."

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