Antagonism between the major public sector union and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) has reached critical levels on the eve of widespread public service strikes.
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) said that the Department’s latest proposed enterprise agreement “sunk to a new low” by retaining cuts to working rights, conditions and allowances and reducing the pay increase offered from 6 per cent to 4.7 per cent over three years.
But the Department has hit back, insisting that its latest pay offer is between 6.4 per cent and 10.7 per cent for “the majority of staff.”
The DIBP’s 13,500 staff have been waiting for a pay rise since 2013 but the public sector enterprise bargaining agreement process has dragged on for them – and many others – with a promise there will be no back pay.
In March this year, union members resoundingly rejected the Department’s offer of 6 per cent over three years, with 81 per cent of votes cast saying ‘no’.
An earlier offer in September 2015 of 3.4 per cent over three years (one of the lowest in the Australian Public Service) was rebuffed by 91 per cent of staff who voted.
Discontentment has been bubbling up within the ranks of the DIBP for a while. CPSU members staged a 24-hour strike on Friday August 12, which included the country’s international airports, and the union has promised “more action” in the months to come.
Union National Secretary Nadine Flood said the recently tabled offer had “achieved the near impossible by further stoking the anger of staff” and aggravated an already tense situation.
“This offer is worse for thousands of staff than the one they overwhelmingly rejected six months ago, still stripping away the rights and conditions of all staff while cutting take-home pay for some,” Flood said.
“CPSU supports pay parity but not at the expense of some staff still facing actual cuts to their current take-home pay while others will get just 4.7 per cent total from 2014 to 2019, or less than 1 per cent per year.”
Employment Minister Michaelia Cash recently underlined that the government will not alter its stance; the latest enterprise agreement proposed by the DIBP is likely to be another red rag to union members.
It appears there will be some come back for the government.
Flood said: “Our members are now planning to get the government’s attention, following up on August’s 24-hour strike at international airports and other sites.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection said that the pay offer was a combination of general pay rises applying to all employees and increases to top of range salary rates for all classification levels to address parity concerns raised by staff [Immigration and Customs were merged in 2015].
The spokesperson said “Overall, the offer delivers an average of 6 per cent across the Department” and the Department would continue to protect take home pay through ‘grand-parenting’ of allowances, as proposed in the last offer.
The Department has said that voting on the enterprise agreement would be as soon as possible with further meetings scheduled next week.
This week’s strike includes a handful of DIBP staff who are union members, including some from the Australian Border Force, who will take part in a three-hour stoppage.
The twenty-four hour strike on Friday mostly involves other departments including Medicare, Centrelink, Child Support, the Tax Office, Defence, Agriculture and Water Resources and Prime Minister and Cabinet and will begin from midnight tomorrow (Thursday) and last until midnight on Friday September 9.
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