Staff of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's department have overwhelmingly rejected an enterprise bargaining agreement offer in a ballot which finished on October 18.
Public servants at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) voted no to a management offer which attacked their rights, conditions and real wages.
About 76% of staff participated in the ballot. The result is a further nail in the coffin of the federal Coalition government's industrial relations policy towards its own workforce.
The 86% no vote in the PM&C joins other key departments which have recently rejected enterprise agreements. An overwhelming 91% of Immigration and Border Force staff voted no; 81% of staff at the Productivity Commission said no; and there was an 83% no vote in the federal government's largest agency, the Department of Human Services, which incorporates Centrelink and Medicare staff.
Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) national secretary Nadine Flood said on October 19: "Prime Minister and Cabinet staff have clearly rejected the government's unfair offer, which would have cut their rights and conditions in return for not one dollar to cover an 18-month wage freeze, and then less than 1.5 per cent in pay from here on in.
"New Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said last week there is 'no public sector bargaining mess to clean up,' and public sector workers need to live 'in the real world,' but this PM&C no vote is a yet another reminder of just how messy and unrealistic the government's current bargaining policy is.
"This is a mess. We've got 150,000 workers without agreements after 18 months and despite these massive no votes and serious strikes held at airports and other agencies last month, the government hasn't yet acted. This situation is almost unprecedented in almost 25 years of public sector bargaining.
"We're up for talking with Minister Cash about the real world. No other major Australian employer would cut 17,700 jobs, expect the workers left to pick up much of the work, go through massive restructuring and then tell them that doesn't count and they have delivered no productivities.
"Staff in the Prime Minister's Department do understand the real world: they look at the Australian economy, business and public policy every day. In the real world, no other major employer is reaching agreements with their workforce that cut a raft of their rights and conditions in return for an 18-month pay freeze and then 1.5 per cent. And as for finding a real employer who is taking that package of nasties and then topping it off with actual pay cuts of $8000 a year, like in Border Force, I suspect the minister may have quite a long hunt to find a real-world example....
"There were particular challenges in PM&C, attempting to merge the pay and conditions of staff from 10 different agencies, but the real problem with this deal was that it reflected the government's unfair bargaining policy.
"The department claimed the agreement includes a 4.5 per cent pay rise over three years, but in reality this wouldn't apply to all staff and wouldn't be guaranteed. This low pay outcome, combined with deep cuts to rights and conditions and the 18-month pay freeze, meant staff were never going to support it."