Aboriginal Hostels staff reject divisive pay offer by 95%

CPSU media release

Staff at Aboriginal Hostels Limited (AHL) have voted 95 per cent “no”to an enterprise agreement that would have entrenched their position as amongst the most poorly paid workers in the Commonwealth public sector.

The unreasonable and unfair offer sought to strip AHL workers of essential rights and conditions while offering a pay rise of just 3 per cent over three years, half the 6 per cent pay increase that has been categorically rejected by the vast majority of people working in the public sector.

AHL provides accommodation, three meals a day and support services across a national network of around 47 hostels for Indigenous Australians who need to be away from home to access life-changing education, employment, health and other services.

Across AHL 55 per cent of staff cast a vote in the ballot, a reasonable participation in an agency where staff in isolated locations poses an usual challenge. AHL staff work at 47 sites around the country to provide accommodation and other support for Indigenous Australians from rural and remote communities.

CPSU Deputy Secretary Beth Vincent-Pietsch said: “This overwhelming rejection by AHL workers shows what a pathetic offer management had put on the table, framed by the Turnbull Government’s failed public sector bargaining policy, even compared with the dud deals that have been voted down easily in other Commonwealth agencies.”

“AHL staff play an essential role in efforts to Close the Gap for Indigenous Australians, providing a critical link for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to access services that most Australians take for granted. This offer would have actually widened that gap, providing a measly pay offer in an organisation that has the highest  percentage of Indigenous staff of any public sector agency at 71 per cent.”

“To put the scale of this injustice into perspective, more than half of AHL workers are on the lowest Australian Public Sector employment classification and are paid only $43,000 a year. Across all Indigenous agencies, staff are being paid up to $40,000 a year less than an equivalent worker in the Department of Finance.”

“AHL has a larger proportion of its workforce on the very bottom rung of the pay ladder than any other agency, yet these people were only being offered a 1 per cent  a year pay rise. This is a disgusting reflection on the Turnbull Government’s commitment to Indigenous Australia.”

“It’s not just the pay that was so disturbing with this rejected deal. This offer would have cemented the casualization of the workforce and put onerous and unfair restrictions in place around issues like sick leave and shift work.”

In 2014-2015, Indigenous Australians spend more than 500,000 nights at AHL sites, including students finishing high school, patients receiving renal dialysis, mothers accessing pre or post-natal care and jobseekers seeking employment opportunities.

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