The polls might be looking crook for Tony Abbott. But they’re not looking crash hot for Public Service Minister Eric Abetz either.
Internal online polling done by the Community and Public Sector Service Union (CPSU) shows the vote on the latest workplace agreement offered up to 1800 staff at the Department of Employment is not going the hardline Minister’s way.
Of the 573 Department of Employment staff surveyed – which included both union and non-union members – 96 per cent rejected the low-ball offer on the table.
The official vote on whether to accept the new workplace agreement opened on Wednesday and will close on Monday next week at 1.30pm.
Negativity surrounding the feeble bargaining isn’t altogether surprising.
To secure a below inflation pay rise of 1.4 per cent over three years (0.5 per cent for each of the first two years and 0.4 per cent in year three) public servants must consent to losing 46 staff “through natural attrition”, lose time off in lieu for middle management and forsake their half day on Christmas Eve.
The enterprise bargaining agreement adds extra increments to grade pay bands so salary advancement is harder and it also removes assurances that the Commonwealth will chip in 15.4 per cent to Employment staff’s superannuation by moving it out of the agreement and into policy instead.
Mr Abetz also appears keen to reclaim his staff’s health and well-being allowances. These allowances are worth $500 a year to staff below APS3 grade for things like gym membership and yoga classes and $200 a year to staff on higher grades.
A CPSU spokesman said the initial poll conducted by the union had given Mr Abetz’s proposal a thumbs down.
Asked what would happen if this week’s vote went the same way, he said: “if they were sensible they would go back to the negotiating table and they would have to come back with another offer but they are actually not obliged to,” the spokesman said.
“That would put the ball back in our court and that’s when we would look at taking protective action but that’s not an option we are looking at at the moment.”
CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “Members, delegates and staff in Employment have given some pretty clear feedback and it’s time the Minister and the Department started to listen.”
“This poll is further proof that the hardline bargaining policy that Minister Abetz is pushing here in his own agency, and across the service, is simply unworkable and is leading to industrial unrest.”
Ms Flood said that a strong rejection of the deal by the Minister’s own staff will be seen as an embarrassment.
“The Government has an opportunity to sit down and discuss a sensible path to settlement. If the Government continues its vicious attack on rights, conditions and real wages it can expect an escalation of industrial action early next year.”
Department of Employment staff are responsible for administering more than $5 billion in policy changes for job seekers, employment assistance service providers and employers.
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