Abbott came to power promising 12,000 job cuts in the public service. Already this has risen to 14,500 over four years, after discovering Labor had already factored these cuts into the budget before it left office.

The result for remaining workers is a steep rise in workloads and decline in working conditions.

Around 20 Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) members, federal public servants, joined the recent March in March rally in Melbourne as an official CPSU “Cuts Hurt” contingent. They included employees of the Immigration Department where call centres are to be cut back, reducing the service to migrant and refugee clients.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) was last year forced to cut an important social survey which measured work-life balance issues, especially for working mothers. Now, 100 more staff are to go in the ABS.

Recently, current head of Treasury Dr Parkinson, who leaves in July, revealed his department would shrink from 1100 workers in 2011 to as few as 730 in 2017—meaning one in three jobs would go.

The message is clear: the Coalition have threatened further cuts in the May Budget and a serious reduction of pay and conditions in the upcoming enterprise bargaining process. Most of the more than 100 agency agreements expire on 30 June this year.

Bargaining

The CPSU pay claim is for a 4 per cent pay increase each year for three years; back-pay to cover the government’s delays; no change to guaranteed 15.4 per cent super; and more progress on pay equity across the APS. However, after the government’s anti-worker comments that public servants should not expect pay rises, the union has softened its approach.

What’s needed is a serious discussion among delegates and members about the need for serious industrial action to achieve that. Some activists in Melbourne are working to build a new network of activists to start this process.

The union opposes the government’s plan, but underrates the ability of union organisation to defend both the public service and CPSU members’ jobs and conditions. We should be campaigning among people who will be further affected by welfare cuts to build community support for union action.

By a CPSU member

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