Defence votes ‘no’ for the third time


Public servants working at the Department of Defence have rejected the government’s most recent pay offer for the third time, this time by 58.4 per cent – an increased margin from both of the last votes. 

The turnout was high, with 84 per cent of staff voting on the proposed enterprise agreement.  Of those, 58.4% voted ‘no’ and 41.6% voted ‘yes’.  

The vote was always expected to be extremely close, after the second agreement was voted down in May by 55 per cent. The first vote in March led to a 50.9 per cent ‘no’ vote.

The federal government will be wringing its hands over its failure to get the 18,500-strong department over the line, dashing its hopes of persuading other large hold-out agencies, such as Human Services and the Australian Tax Office (ATO), to follow suit.

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) advised its members at Defence to vote down the agreement, which it says represents only a 1 per cent pay rise each year; removes rights and conditions from the EBA and into policy (which can be changed later); removes the need to consult about issues like major organisational change and attacks areas such as performance pay and fair dispute resolution.

The Union’s National Secretary, Nadine Flood said: “Just days after Minister Cash rejected the outcomes of the senate inquiry into this three year dispute, Defence staff have delivered another damning indictment of the Turnbull Government’s public sector bargaining policy. This is now the third time Defence staff have voted ‘no’ to dud deals framed under the policy, and it’s telling the margin of the defeat has grown each time.

“This mess in Defence started three years ago with an attack on ADF pay and conditions and it’s still not fixed. Minister Michaelia Cash’s pretence there isn’t a problem with government’s bargaining policy looks completely threadbare when the opposition in a major agency like Defence is growing each time they go to a vote.”

The CPSU and the technical union Professionals Australia, representing many Defence scientists and engineers, have said that a third ‘no’ vote would motivate them to ask the Fair Work Commission to step in an arbitrate, something that is already happening with staff at the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, but the Defence Department is known to be highly resistant to the move.

Another critical vote for the government opens tomorrow (Thursday), when 20,000 staff at the ATO cast their votes, with the result expected a week later.

Public Service Minister Michaelia Cash has pledged to continue the government’s hard-line bargaining approach, commenting that she will completely ignore the recent Labor/Greens senate report into the three-year APS bargaining slog.

The report, which was countered by a dissenting report from Coalition senators, called the government’s approach to the dispute “toxic” and “cruel and heartless”.

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2 thoughts on “Defence votes ‘no’ for the third time

  1. just a note to correct the third paragraph: The first vote at Defence was far tighter than the 60% no vote referred to. The article is otherwise correct that the no vote has progressively increased. Should come as no surprise given essentially same offer has been thrown to employees three times now. There is no ‘good faith’ bargaining in this process.

    1. Thanks for pointing that out, Martin. I was working off the senate report into APS bargaining, which incorrectly has 60% as the first ‘no’ vote in Defence. I’ll change the story. Cheers. Marie.

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