Dept of Ag employees' strike threat

24 Mar, 2015 04:14 AM
Employment Minister Eric Abetz. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Once again, the CPSU is vastly exaggerating support for its irresponsible 12.5 per cent wage claim
Employment Minister Eric Abetz. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

AIRLINE passengers, cargo and meat inspections face disruption next week after Department of Agriculture employees voted to join workers from nine federal agencies threatening industrial action.

Under the proposed bans, a higher number of passengers, mail and cargo items will be selected for screening, potentially resulting in travellers and items being held up.

Workers also threatened bans on completing computer entries required for the release of containers, vessels or vehicles, including cargo containing meat and other primary produce.

About 95 per cent of workers who voted backed the industrial action that also includes outright stoppages, in protest at what their union said was a federal government offer of real wage cuts and reductions in conditions.

The Community and Public Sector Union said on Monday the industrial action was expected to start next week.

The union's national secretary, Nadine Flood, said the industrial action could "affect passenger movement at airports and ports, cargo inspections, meat inspections, international mail processing and other services".

She said the department had offered an annual 0.5pc pay rise, cuts to conditions and allowances, the removal of superannuation protections and the loss of 42 regional jobs.

"Biosecurity officers are on the frontline every day monitoring what's coming in and out of the country, protecting the food we eat and the goods that we export," she said.

"They ensure Australia's multibillion-dollar agriculture industry is free from infestations, disease and plagues. These people do tough dirty work and the government proposes to reward them by cutting their take-home pay, cutting jobs and attacking their conditions."

Ms Flood said the offer represented "a nasty, ugly package of cuts that was never going to dissuade staff from voting to take industrial action".

"They should have known better. Public sector staff across the nation are rejecting offers like this in droves.

"The government's unworkable and shambolic bargaining policy is making it extremely difficult for agency chiefs to come up with an acceptable offer to staff."

Workers in the Australian Taxation Office, the Departments of Human Services, Defence, Veterans' Affairs, Environment, Employment, Geoscience Australia, CSIRO, and the Australian Institute of Criminology are all taking or planning industrial action.

Employment Minister Eric Abetz, who is also Minister assisting the Prime Minister on the Public Service, said on Monday the union had not yet given notice of protected action at the Department of Agriculture.

"Thirty per cent of the CPSU's own members at the Department of Agriculture did not even vote in or for the protected action ballot," he said.

"Indeed, 77 per cent of Department of Agriculture employees were either not balloted because they aren't CPSU members, or were CPSU members who did not cast a vote, or voted against protected action. Once again, the CPSU is vastly exaggerating support for its irresponsible 12.5 per cent wage claim. Most public servants realise this."

Ms Flood said not one agency had been able to get through the "nasty bargaining maze of cuts to rights, conditions and jobs" overseen by Senator Abetz. "Senator Abetz needs to step back from the brink and sit down to work through sensible solutions to this deadlock, rather than pushing Commonwealth employees into industrial action."

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Farmer Brown
24/03/2015 5:51:49 AM

Just remember Private Enterprise can probably do this work cheaper. I was told a story about a man whose company offered an option of wage cuts or sacking 50 people. He voted against wage cuts because he couldn't take a wage cut. He lost his job.
24/03/2015 7:02:43 AM

Dear Barnaby, I hear you have a problem with staff wanting more money than you've got. Here's a solution to your problems. Declare the public service to be in an Exceptional Circumstances drought. They then get to pay the government for the privilege of using key inputs like computers and phones (Full cost recovery just like water that's never delivered but has to be paid for). The Government can then come in & be a hero in the media & be all like sharing and caring & give them the dole, a health card, emotional support & a few 'mateship' bbqs to keep morale high through this difficult time
24/03/2015 8:10:47 AM

I've taken a 100% wage cut due to drought. .5% sounds really attractive and I produce food for people to eat.
24/03/2015 8:50:07 AM

Fire them all and let them sign up for the govenment wait...yea tellem that!
24/03/2015 5:46:30 PM

Why can anyone demand a larger pay rise than CPI? Will they take a pay cut when our economy goes down and CPI is negative? Has their work suddenly become more dangerous? Maybe a tender for services would be the way to go with strict monitoring of their performance. Quarantine surveillance is currently not up to the required standard to protect our production and our markets.
24/03/2015 5:54:17 PM

Well farmer Bob, I have worked for the Dept as well as private enterprise, I have spent a lot of time arguing with businesses trying to get them to do the right thing by the farmers (family members are farmers} and could only achieve reasonable outcomes when I had the independence of a federal job behind me, I often wonder why I bothered when I read some of the garbage that I see printed here, oh and as to private enterprise doing the job cheaper; you get what you pay for. The grain industry was not regulated prior to the late 60's and internationally we were a basket case.


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