Workers in Border Force, Immigration and Agriculture took stop work action again on 3 August, with rolling four-hour stoppages across the country. There was significant disruption to international airport queues, with management forced to move into frontline positions to cover for striking workers.
Their union, the CPSU, staged protests at airports on the day nationwide.
CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood explained, “Workers are walking off the job at airports, ports and mail centres around the country to protest the government’s attacks on their rights, conditions and real wages.”
A Customs worker in Melbourne told Solidarity their strike was, “not the first and it won’t be the last.”
He said under the government’s pay offer workers would be “going backwards”, with management “telling us you’ll get a pay rise but have to work more hours, so our hourly rate was actually going to go down slightly. They want to force us to work 20 minutes more a day, and take away our shift allowance.”
“They want to take away our 36.5 per cent shift penalty, that compensates us for starting at 4.30am in the morning or working until 3am, and for working weekends. They want to put us onto shift penalties that would allow them to manipulate the rosters so that you lose any penalties.”
Across the Federal public service, workers are facing pay cuts after inflation and widespread loss of conditions are part of the Abbott government’s bargaining policy. Workers in Customs have been particularly hard hit, due to the merger into the new Border Force agency, and some stand to lose $8000 a year due to loss of penalty rates and conditions.
The government suffered a shock loss in early August with a 71 per cent no vote in the 1200-strong Infrastructure Department to their proposed pay deal. Only one in five Infrastructure staff are union members. The deal offered pay rises of just 1.5 per cent a year—effectively a pay cut—and demanded “productivity offsets”.
A similar deal is set to be put to the 34,000 staff in the Department of Human Services, covering Medicare and Centrelink, but the union expects workers to again vote no.
Workers in Immigration and Border Protection are also handing out one million flyers to the public, according to the CPSU, in an effort to pressure the government and see it voted out at the next federal election. But voting in Labor won’t be enough to end the job cuts and cost cutting in the public sector. Ramping up industrial action across the public service is the way to win.