Immigration workers lash government pay offer for third time



Workers in the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) have voted down the government’s latest pay offer by an emphatic 82 per cent as the Fair Work Commission (FWC) prepares to step in and force an outcome between the warring parties.

The ‘no’ vote was up slightly from the previous vote in March, where it reached 81 per cent, and the participation rate was also higher, with 84 per cent of eligible staff voting.

It is the third time in three years that DIBP workers have rejected the Turnbull Government’s enterprise bargaining proposals covering pay, rights and conditions, and clears the way for the Full Bench of the FWC to go to compulsory arbitration, which many believe is likely to play out in the Union’s favour.

This follows a series of DIBP strikes at airports, ports and terminal and the suspension of protected industrial action (PIA) by the Commission.

The Commission terminated PIA on October 6 at the Union’s request, triggering supervised negotiations and now, arbitration.

Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) National Secretary Nadine Flood called the vote a “dose of reality” for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Public Service Minister Michaelia Cash.

“This is an emphatic rejection of the fundamentally unfair and unreasonable deal being pushed by Immigration and Border Force’s bosses and the Turnbull Government,” Ms Flood said.

“Nearly 10,000 people voted ‘no’ because they know a bad deal when they see one. This offer would have hurt them, their families and their colleagues.”

There will be a public committee hearing this Friday, which Ms Flood said would shine a light on the “human impact” of the government’s bargaining policy, which has left around 100,000 public servants without a pay rise for three years and little chance of back pay.

She added: “The ball is now in the government’s court. They can change their policy and have DIBP take something sensible into arbitration in Fair Work to fix this or they can keep punishing workers by fighting the legal process.

“The rights, conditions and pay of DIBP workers will now be decided on through an independent process, so the government would be well advised to rethink their harsh industrial relations agenda.”

In the meantime, Immigration Secretary Mike Pezzullo and Border Force Commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg wrote to the Department’s 13,500 staff this week once again warning them that arbitration could be lengthy and underlining that they would get no say in the Commission’s verdict. Mr Pezzullo warned staff in October that the process could drag on for 18 months.

Professor Ron McCallum, Emeritus Professor in the Faculty of Law of the University of Sydney, told Government News last month that the Commission would be “pretty determined” to expedite the verdict and it would probably be known by June 2017.

He said that arbitration would probably achieve a better result for DIBP workers.

“The Union will do much better [under arbitration] than they were likely to do in bargaining and I think the government is on the back foot.

“The federal government’s two per cent [pay offer] and the amalgamating of people to create Border Force means there are all sorts of people coming from different wage areas and they all need to be realigned.”

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