Just business as usual, says Border Force. Oh no it’s not, says CPSU

Border Force2


The Department of Immigration and Border Protection ( DIBP) has hit back at the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) that it has been using ‘strike breakers’ to reduce the effects of the union’s rolling industrial action.

But its comments have inflamed tensions with the union, which says the Department’s statement shows it has admitted to major irregularities, and that it has refused to deny many of the CPSU’s original statements.

“The Department is aware of media reporting in which concerns have been expressed in relation to the measures taken by the Department in response to industrial action at international airports,” said a DIBP spokesperson.

“The measures adopted by the Department are standard business continuity measures that apply in a range of operational circumstances – not just industrial action. These measures can be invoked for a range of reasons, including staff shortages and system outages,” the spokesperson said.

“They were in no way shortcuts to minimise delays or to circumvent border security protocols. Australian Border Force (ABF) officers deployed under surge arrangements are not used as so-called ‘strike-breakers’.

“The Department is legally entitled to deploy staff to meet immediate needs and these activities are entirely consistent with our operational model. All officers deployed under surge arrangements have appropriate authorisation and training and follow correct procedures for processing airport passengers.

“All national security alerts were actioned appropriately and in accordance with operational requirements. The deployment of surge teams during school holiday periods is normal business practice.

“With industrial action occurring during the current holiday period, surge numbers have been larger than usual and have addressed both the risk to the border and disruption to travellers that the industrial action would otherwise have caused.

“The Department is working on a revised Enterprise Agreement and looks forward to engaging with its staff on this matter.”

The CPSU says there are “holes” in the Department’s statement, which it says “appears to have conceded some serious border irregularities in their approach to dealing with airport strikes.”

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “The Department’s insistence that there were no shortcuts and the strike breaking surge operation was all business as usual is extraordinary, and likely to further infuriate hundreds of Border Force officers who know this is absolute rubbish.

“The Department has not denied that hundreds of passengers have not been live processed using the agency’s computer systems during the strikes. Instead they’ve been subject to a much simpler face-to-passport visual check, handed in their paperwork and been allowed to walk out of the airport.

“We have had multiple reports supporting that this failure to live process occurred at Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Gold Coast airports. This has clearly posed a risk of missed alerts, potentially allowing a person of national security interest, a potential drug courier or someone with an outstanding arrest warrant entry to Australia without any further questioning.”

“While the Department has explicitly denied that any national security alerts were missed during the action, its silence on the other alert categories is of concern.“

“The Department has also not denied that in a small number of cases the passenger forms taken manually by managers acting as untrained strike breakers have been incomplete and they haven’t been able to be processed at all. That means that technically those passengers are undocumented arrivals.

“The Department has been quick to abandon its long-standing refusal to comment on operational matters as part of its attack on the rights, conditions and take-home pay of its highly trained and professional workforce.”

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