Federal public servants in a number of agencies, including the ATO, Defence, Customs, Immigration and the Bureau of Meteorology have now voted down enterprise agreements. Three out of four public servants are hostile to the government’s miserable below inflation 3 per cent per year pay offer ceiling and attacks on conditions.

Thousands of staff are balloting for industrial action, including Immigration, Defence and Customs staff. In the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry a series of rolling national stoppages began from July 26.

The public sector union, the CPSU, has drawn up a plan for an APS-wide bargaining system and claims for common pay and conditions. But the government has responded with a common program of cuts with no regard for appropriate conditions across the APS. The federal budget also included an increase in the “efficiency dividend” to 1.5 per cent, a further assault on public services which threatens staff cuts.

The union needs to hit back with common across the board industrial action. Unfortunately, it is allowing the government to deal agency-by-agency, leaving 75 agencies to conduct their own bargains, and squandering the industrial power of a public service workforce of more than 100,000 staff.

Now is a good time to propose united action, because most of the agreements are being negotiated at the same time.

Even on their own, some departments, for example the major revenue-collecting agencies like Tax, can impose better agreements with strike action, but they need solidarity from other CPSU members to have the confidence to take action.

Centrelink, Medicare, the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service and the Child Support Agency have been combined to make one mega-agency of 45,000 staff.

The government is crowing about avoiding the recession, and its plans for a surplus. They can pay, and staff deserve decent conditions to provide the quality public services that working families need.

By Judy McVey
CPSU member, ABS, Melbourne

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