Staff at the National Library of Australia have comprehensively thrown a proposed new enterprise agreement straight back at the government, with more than three quarters of those voting at the cut-ravaged icon rejecting the offer.
The emphatic 75.1 per cent vote against the offer– that saw 81 per cent of staff participating – comes as the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) continues to apply pressure on the Turnbull government to come up with a new deal for public servants with strikes at airports resuming on Wednesday this week after being initially postponed following terrorist attacks in Brussels last week.
Although comparatively small compared to many government agencies, the force of the National Library rejection vote is certain to reverberate amongst the government’s industrial who have clearly been hoping that are coming closer rather than further away from breaking the present impasse.
As one of the Government’s more public facing institutions and a key tourist attraction, staff at the National Library are naturally more exposed to any potential erosion of conditions thanks to its operating schedule that runs seven days a week as well as evenings.
Also eating into public perception are funding cuts to the National Library that could force it to stop updating its lauded Trove online database which holds around 473 million online resources and gets around 70,000 visitors a day and has dramatically increased the institution’s profile among professional and amateur researchers alike.
While the government has reportedly told the National Library it can seek private sector support to help fund Trove’s growth, palpable and broad based anger over the cutting of digital services that transcend jurisdictional boundaries now risks undermining confidence in the Turnbull Government’s wider Digital Transformation agenda.
In the meantime, the CPSU is making the most of the strong vote against the offer to staff.
“A 75.1 per cent No vote from these National Library staff is a clear and unequivocal rejection of what was an ugly offer from their bosses, particularly for those with parental and other responsibilities,” said CPSU Deputy Secretary Beth Vincent-Pietsch.
“Management was asking these people to work the equivalent of several extra days a year, while cutting flexible working hours and other provisions that help mums and dads juggle their important work with their family obligations.”
The union is also continuing to target the Prime Minister to intervene directly in the dispute, with National Secretary Nadine Flood seizing on comments made by Mr Turnbull urging the CPSU to talk more with the government to find a compromise and avoid strikes such as those hitting airports this week.
“We are surprised to say the least that the Prime Minister is urging us to continue discussions with the Government, since he has not yet responded to our request for discussions and the Government has refused to talk with us since October last year,” Ms Flood said.
“We are again asking the PM to give us someone to talk to so this bargaining mess can be sorted out.”
Far less clear is if or when the government is prepared to bring on fresh round of votes at the public services’ biggest agencies including Human Services, Tax and Defence now that an election is widely tipped for July 2nd.
Adding to the uncertainty is what happens if election writs are issued prior to new deals being struck, with Australian Public Service Commission yet to advise agencies whether or not they can sign-off on new enterprise agreements during the caretaker period.
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