Employment Minister Cash will to talk to unions over industrial action


There are hopes for an end to the industrial campaigns affecting multiple federal departments and agencies.

While there have been no substantive moves, and strikes and other industrial action continue, new Employment Minister Michaelia Cash has indicated a willingness to talk to the public sector unions, who have initiated the campaigns in reaction to what they say is the government’s intransigence, confrontational approach and failure to negotiate.

Ms Cash told the Canberra Times this week that she was willing to talk so long as unions behave “responsibly” and do not indulge in “misleading and provocative campaigns of misinformation.”

The main union involved, the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), has written to Senator Cash asking for direct talks, something her predecessor Eric Abetz was unwilling to do.

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “We hope Minister Cash’s statements translate to an early start to dialogue with the CPSU about changing the Government’s destructive public sector bargaining policy.

“Current government policy does the opposite of Prime Minister Turnbull’s statement that he is not seeking to attack workplace conditions or wage war on workers and their unions. We have more than 150,000 Commonwealth workers frustrated by these long-running attacks on their rights, conditions and, for Border Force workers, their take home pay.

“These are mums and dads scared about their rights and who haven’t had a pay rise since 2013. We are calling on Minister Cash to make resolving this dispute an early priority, after more than 18 months of the government not even talking.”

Enterprise agreements for more than 100 Government agencies expired 15 months ago, but Ms Flood said the Government’s bargaining policy has ensured that new agreements have been reached for just 4 per cent of public sector workers.

Last week over 10,000 Border Force employees – 91 per cent of the workforce – rejected an enterprise agreement that the CPSU said would cut the take-home pay of many staff by $8,000 a year. They have continued industrial action into this week.

“Minister Cash has inherited a bargaining mess, with strong ‘No’ votes and strikes causing disruption to the public at airports and key agencies including Medicare and Centrelink,” Ms Flood said.

“Provocative attacks on unions have done nothing to resolve this dispute and Minister Cash should instead take a new approach and change the government’s bargaining policy.”

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