Thousands of federal public servants were set to strike as Solidarity went to press, continuing the campaign against plans to cut working conditions in exchange for a miserable 2 per cent a year pay rise.

During the 24-hour strike on 9 September union members are protesting outside key government ministers’ offices, like Josh Frydenberg in Melbourne and Malcolm Turnbull in Sydney.

It’s more than three years since the last APS-wide pay rise. Our campaign needs to aim to escalate with workers taking stronger action.

The early strikes won key concessions like retaining superannuation in Enterprise Agreements, and attaining a fairer definition of productivity along with slightly better pay. More than a year ago we held successful mass meetings but since then the campaign has been lacklustre. One exception has been ongoing action at airports.

This is the fourth half day or full day strike across the APS since May 2015. But without meetings or actions on the strike days since June last year they have built little momentum. Holding rallies outside politicians’ offices is a step forward from doing nothing on the strike days previously. But rallies in the suburbs mean they will be more low key.

While the number of permanent staff has declined by more than 17,000 under the Liberals, agencies have taken on contractors and casuals who are unlikely to join unions. Cuts to the renewable energy agency (ARENA) mean more job losses in CSIRO.

A small number of agencies have now accepted poor agreements. However more than 75 per cent of public servants have not. Major agencies, like tax, Human Services, Immigration and Defence, plus the Bureau of Meteorology have resisted the offers so far with large “No” votes.

The government is in a weak position. We need to demonstrate our industrial strength with large rallies of striking workers in the cities. The union was hoping for a change of government. But the only alternative now is to fight.

By CPSU delegates, Melbourne

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