Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) staff are waiting to hear whether the Fair Work Commission (FWC) will step in and bring to an end their bitter three-year dispute with the federal government over pay and conditions.
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has asked the national workplace relations umpire to arbitrate a new enterprise bargaining agreement and end the toxic situation on the ground, a situation which has left tens of thousands of staff without a pay rise and no hope of back pay.
The DIBP applied to temporarily suspend protected industrial action from 9pm last Friday and the Commission issued an interim suspension order but the Department has also asked the FWC to continue the suspension for longer, although it insisted “this decision was not taken lightly.”
The Union had planned two weeks of rolling stoppages at airports, cruise ship terminals and cargo facilities across the country from 26 September to 9 October.
The union will argue at a hearing in Melbourne today (Wednesday) that faith in the bargaining process has collapsed and that the dispute should be thrown to the Commission to decide.
The CPSU has told members that it will argue strike action should be terminated, rather than suspended “so this bargaining charade can end in DIBP.”
The union said:
“If action is terminated this will trigger a compulsory 21-day FWC supervised negotiation period followed by arbitration of any unresolved claims by a FWC Full Bench.
“Arbitration was never our preferred outcome but in the absence of the Government negotiating a fair and reasonable EA, and after three years of trying, at least arbitration will finally provide a resolution for DIBP workers.”
CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood said last Friday: “We have been saying for some weeks the Commonwealth government has a choice: either sit down and sort this mess out or take us to Fair Work and let the independent umpire make the decision.
“For more than 1,000 days these workers and their families and the community have suffered the impacts of this ongoing dispute and it’s well past time for Prime Minister Turnbull to fix this mess, not just for DIBP but for all Commonwealth workers.”
Union members appeared to back the Union’s stance on social media.
“Unprecedented, let’s hope FWC can sort out DHS, ATO and all the others that are still outstanding, it seems there is a multi-agency push to get votes happening in October. In my opinion all votes in all agencies should be put on hold until this outcome is known,” said one, while another said: “there will never be a deal with this government. Arbitration or nothing.”
Another post said: “and we’re not done yet! There’s plenty more work to do holding this government accountable for wasting more than 1,000 days on ideological posturing rather than dealing with their workers in good faith. Are we up for it? You bet we are!!”
But others had no faith in the Commission or the government, “We’ll all just get screwed again by the FWC. It’s very difficult to be optimistic with the Liberal rabble at the reins” with another person commenting: “Fair Work will always take the side of government. After all, they pay their wages.”
It’s not just workers at the DIBP who are on their edge of their seats awaiting the verdict.
Staff at other departments where agreements remained unsigned, including Human Services and the ATO, will be keenly watching how things play out between the Union and the FWC today and in coming weeks.
More to follow.
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