'Work half an hour more, but no fair pay rise'

'The government has a radical agenda to cut job security, rights, real wages and conditions.'

The Community and Public Services Union (CPSU) has slammed a move by the federal government's biggest department, the Department of Human Services, which incorporates Centrelink, Medicare and the Child Support Agency, to force staff to work extra time for no additional pay. The department wants its 35,000 staff to work an additional half hour a week in negotiations for a new industrial agreement.

This attack on working hours is part of the Coalition government's assault on the jobs and conditions of public servants, launched in the recent federal budget. In initial bargaining, which started on July 1, the department reduced its previous enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) from 116 pages to 42, making a huge cut to employee rights and entitlements.

In addition to longer work hours, staff are being pressured to accept a loss of overtime payments, reduced leave entitlements, an end to the right of consultation on work rosters, and a stricter "performance management" regime.

CPSU deputy national president Lisa Newman said the plan was a "shocker”, and warned CPSU members to brace for a fresh attack on their wages when the department managers release their pay offer. She told CPSU members that the bosses' plan to add six minutes to the department's working day of 7.5 hours would add up to big gains for the federal government.

"This means working an extra six minutes a day will deliver the government $104 million in additional working hours, but will not deliver you a fair and reasonable pay rise," Newman said, the July 8 Sydney Morning Herald reported.

She also accused the department of delaying making a pay offer, saying public servants were, in effect, on a pay freeze while negotiations continued, after the government banned back-pay in new workplace agreements.

A July 3 CPSU statement said: "The government has a radical agenda to cut job security, rights, real wages and conditions.

"Job cuts as an industrial weapon: The government announced 16,500 job losses in the budget, and more cuts are expected before the end of the year. Government and agencies are using genuine staff concerns over job cuts to lower bargaining expectations and 'soften' people up for substandard agreements. This is an attempt to fool [Australian Public Service] workers into accepting agreements which strip critical rights at the same time as 16,500 jobs are being cut.

"Building support: At the same time as our bargaining campaign is gathering momentum, we are also campaigning strongly about budget cuts ahead. We are taking every opportunity to argue against such deep cuts and speak up for the important work public sector workers do. We are also lobbying hard to stop legislative change that impact your rights, your jobs and services, and working closely with community groups and the Australian Council of Trade Unions.”

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