They may have been instrumental in helping to achieve the cornerstone policy of stopping the boats, but the chances of a securing pay rise still appears well beyond the horizon for staff at the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
After month of enterprise bargaining talks, frustrations over the apparent lack of progress in industrial negotiations at the DIPB are conspicuously surfacing after the Community and Public Sector Union hit out at attempts to ratchet-up and dilute conditions with a formal wage offer being put on the table.
In a bulletin to members, the CPSU said that DIBP had “confirmed its intention” to wind in existing conditions and string out the working day by another 30 minutes a week.
The unions is similarly opposing what it claims is a bid to remove “standard day and service delivery hours” as well as an attempt to junk an agreement on core hours that appears to have been combined with an explicit right of staff to force employers to negotiate on shift rosters.
However it is the conspicuous absence of an actual hard number in terms of an offer to staff that has peaked interest in the talks because it could indicate a shift in tactics from the government, especially after widespread hostility and cynicism over below-inflation offers at the Department of Human Services and Defence.
Union officials are seething.
“Essentially the Government is saying ‘trust us’ but Immigration workers aren’t stupid and they will see it for what it is – a bad deal,” said CPSU Deputy Secretary, Rupert Evans.
“Immigration is just the latest in a growing number of agencies to impose the Government’s radical bargaining policy. We have seen it with DHS and we expect to see it with Defence where legally enforceable rights are being stripped out of the agreement and turned into policy, which can be changed whenever management likes or Government directs.”
A major sticking point for unions and employers in pay talks with staff is that agency heads across the Australian Public Service have effectively been forced to put forward a largely inflexible framework set down by Public Service Minister Senator Eric Abetz through the Australian Public Service Commission.
However it is understood there are again increasing concerns about the level of staff morale in Immigration due in part to the frequently polarised debate on immigration and border protection policy in relation to asylum seekers.
A persistent issue for many organisations with ongoing morale challenges for staff is managing level and frequency of personal and sick leave accessed and it now appears there will be a strong attempt by the DIPB push down leave entitlements.
According to the CPSU, DIPB is seeking to cut 3 days of paid Personal Leave a year out in the new agreement, a move that would shrink the entitlement from 18 days to 15 days per annum.
The union similarly says that Personal and Carer’s leave in latest policy is being shrunk.
At present the entitlement sits at a limit of three days, without supporting documentation. That could shrink to 2 days. At the same time the limit on the total of undocumented personal or carer’s leave could be cut from 5 days to 3 days in a calendar year.
The CPSU also claims DIPB is trying to change the threshold for what constitutes “satisfactory evidence” where the “employer now decides when a Statutory Declaration substitutes for a Medical Certificate.”
“There’s a whole laundry list of hard-earned rights and conditions that Immigration staff – the majority of whom are women – will have to give up under these proposals. What we haven’t seen here is what workers are going to get in return for a cut to their conditions and rights – a pay offer. Judging on the DHS and leaked Defence plans staff are likely to go backwards in pay. That’s the reality of this Government’s aggressive bargaining strategy,” Mr Evans said.
There is also a predictable stink over allowances.
On the table this round, according to the union, is the proposed removal of a part-day travel allowance, removal of Escort Duty allowance, and the removal of a Uniform Allowance.
Also up for the chop are ‘Remote Localities Allowances’ for Darwin and Cairns for new employees, with the entitlement grandfathered for existing staff.
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