Chris Slee

Thousands of Customs Officers attended stop-work meetings around Australia on October 13. They voted to take further industrial action next week if needed as part of their campaign to have the federal government agree to a fair pay agreement. Customs officers at than fifty locations took action. This caused delays at international airports, ports, cargo inspections, international mail centres and other customs sites.
Workers in the Department of Immigration and Citizenship have won pay rises of about 11% over three years. Management initially offered only 9%, but conceded bigger rises following a 65% “no” vote to the offer in a staff ballot. Members of the Community and Public Sector Union had threatened industrial action over the issue. By contrast, Australian Taxation Office (ATO) management has so far refused to go beyond its original offer of 9% over three years.
Employees at the Department of Human Services (DHS) voted to reject an enterprise agreement proposed by management, which would have covered 42,000 staff. Seventy three percent of those who took part in the ballot voted “no”. More than 120,000 public servants from agencies such as defence, customs and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry have now rejected inadequate agreements. Industrial action has occurred in some places.
"The pay offer is a lemon" has been the theme of protests by Australian Taxation Office (ATO) workers around Australia over the past two weeks. Workers have put lemons on their desks and stuck up posters of lemons to symbolise their rejection of management's pay offer of 9% over three years, which is less than the rate of inflation. Some workers have called for strike action in the tax office, as has happened in other government agencies.
Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) members in several government departments are continuing to campaign against the federal government's policy of limiting pay rises to 3% a year, which is less than the rate of inflation. CPSU members in the defence department walked off the job for one hour on August 25 to attend protest meetings over stalled pay negotiations. Civilian staff at more than 70 defence bases and offices throughout the country took part.
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.
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) staff took industrial action for two hours from 3pm on August 11 over stalled enterprise agreement negotiations. Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) members in DAFF walked off the job at about 40 sites across Australia for two hours in protest at the lack of progress with their pay claim. The stoppage affected quarantine inspections at airports, meat inspections at abattoirs and other DAFF services. The action followed a series of one-hour national stoppages the previous week.
Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) members in the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry held one-hour stopwork meetings at 40 sites around Australia on August 4. They are campaigning for a pay rise greater than the 3% a year offered by management. They voted to escalate their action in coming weeks, including work bans from August 11, if the employer does not make an improved pay offer. On August 2, delegates from all Australian Public Service departments rallied outside the Canberra office of the Australian Public Service Commission.
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.
More public servants have voted against proposed enterprise agreements put forward by the management of various federal government agencies. Places where staff have voted “no” include the departments of agriculture, fisheries and forestry; immigration and citizenship; defence; and customs. Staff in the Australian Taxation Office, the Productivity Commission, Comcare, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, and the Attorney Generals Department have also voted no. Workers are unhappy with the 3% a year limit on pay rises — less than the expected rise in the cost of living.

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