Public servants vote on industrial action

Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry offices, Canberra.

Ballots on motions authorising industrial action have taken place among members of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) in three government departments.

In the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and the Customs Service, more than 80% of voters supported industrial action. However, the number of people that voted in each case fell slightly short of the 50% required for “protected industrial action” under federal industrial laws.

The Australian Electoral Commission conducted the postal ballots. Many CPSU members have complained that they did not receive their ballot papers, or received them too late to vote.

This shows one of the problems with the Labor government’s industrial legislation, which (like that of the previous Liberal government) is extremely restrictive on the right to strike.

“Protected” (legal) industrial action can only take place after a government-run ballot, which can only be held during a designated bargaining period. Even then, it is subject to a range of restrictions.

Despite the difficulties, workers in the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry successfully voted for protected industrial action.

This caused management to make some concessions. Although the concessions are insufficient, the CPSU decided to postpone industrial action pending further negotiations.

If these do not succeed, stop work meetings are planned for the week commencing August 1.

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