Chris Slee

"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.

Workers in the Australian Taxation Office have rejected management's proposed enterprise agreement by 59% to 41% in an all-staff vote. Workers in the Department of Defence voted against their management's proposal by 72.5% to 27.5%.

This follows similar votes by employees at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the immigration department.

Australian Taxation Office staff will vote on management's proposed enterprise agreement between June 27 and June 30.

The Community and Public Sector Union and the Australian Services Union have balloted their tax office members. In each case, the vast majority has voted to reject management's offer.

The two unions have agreed on a joint campaign to reject management's draft agreement.

They have produced joint posters and leaflets pointing out that management's pay offer of 9% over three years is likely to be less than the rise in the cost of living over that period.

Australian Taxation Office management has announced it will put its draft enterprise agreement to a vote of all ATO staff during a seven-day period starting on June 24, after negotiations with the unions ended in disagreement.

From June 15 to June 17 the Community and Public Sector Union held a ballot of its ATO members to decide the union's attitude to management's proposal.

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