Hopes of a Christmas truce in the trenches of the Australian Public Service have been dashed by the postponement of the Human Services (DHS) pay offer ballot.
The government had indicated it wanted to press ahead with a ballot for its 34,000 DHS staff, which was to close on December 22 but the vote has been held back until February next year.
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) said DHS abandoned the vote because the government had not backed down on its cuts to terms and conditions.
CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said that DHS staff faced a second Christmas of wage freezes and uncertainty.
“Holding an enterprise agreement ballot just a few days before Christmas was a dubious tactic, but our members working in DHS had indicated that wasn’t going to stop them from rejecting this harsh and unfair agreement,” Ms Flood said.
Ms Flood said the departmental delay was an admission that the new agreement was still a dud deal and would be defeated, as it was at the September vote when 83 per cent of DHS opposed it.
She said it was a “tacit acknowledgement” that workers remained fundamentally opposed to losing rights during the bargaining process.
“Strong campaigning by our members has forced the Government to make some changes to its bargaining policy, but they still haven’t dropped the over-the-top attack on rights and conditions that matter to working people, or provided any relief from an 18-month wage freeze.”
“Rather than attacking the CPSU and its members in the Parliament, as Minister Peter Dutton did on Tuesday, the Government should be sitting down to talk with us so a real-world solution can be found to this impasse, which is the result of its harsh and unreasonable bargaining policy.”
The CPSU recently launched a crowdfunding campaign to establish a strike fund after the government decided to dock a full day’s pay from striking Department of Immigration and Border Force (DIBP) staff last month.
No date has been set yet for a DIBP voted, a critical area for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as he reflects upon the potential chaos caused by strikes at international airports and freight terminals.
Ms Flood said that more than 92 per cent of APS workers still did not have a new agreement in place after 18 months.
“It is time to fix this mess,” she said. “Minister Cash needs to do more than pretend agencies and CPSU can negotiate an outcome, when agencies have both hands tied behind their back.”
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