4 October 2023

CPSU expands pay push to include Dept of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

| Andrew McLaughlin
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CPSU members fly their red and white union flags

The CPSU and its members have widened their field of view for the next target of possible protected action. Photo: CPSU.

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has announced it will expand its push for higher wages and improved conditions to include the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

With its members in Services Australia already embroiled in protected action and the Fair Work Commission approving a protected ballot to vote on potential action for its members in the Fair Work Ombudsman, the CPSU has widened its field of view to other departments or agencies.

Following the union’s rejection of an 11.2 per cent wage increase over three years for all Australian Public Service employees despite a majority of 51.9 per cent of its membership voting to accept the offer, the CPSU escalated its action at Services Australia with a 24-hour strike planned for Monday 9 October.

With the Fair Work Commission approving the protected action ballot for Fair Work Ombudsman members, a vote by a majority of its members could see additional protected industrial action including work restrictions, stoppages and strike action take place.

READ ALSO Fair Work Ombudsman the latest target of CPSU action over wages

The CPSU says if its application for a protected action ballot for its members is approved by the Fair Work Commission, on-plant vets (OPVs) and meat inspectors will have the opportunity to vote on taking protected industrial action.

The vote will cover three separate actions, including the banning of overtime, work stoppages of up to one hour, and work stoppages of up to 24 hours.

“CPSU members in the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry are under increasing work pressures as major attraction and retention issues plague their workplaces,” CPSU national secretary Melissa Donnelly said. “Every day these workers witness the need for a decent pay rise in the APS.

“There is a clear fix here for the government. The Albanese Labor Government has the opportunity in service-wide bargaining to bring employees across the APS together after what has been a tumultuous decade for the public sector.”

The union previously demanded a 20 per cent pay increase over three years for all APS employees – a figure which many observers have described as arbitrary – and has been involved in protracted negotiations with the APSC since.

READ ALSO Yes means yes but only sometimes, apparently

There were also demands for improved conditions, including APS pay equity, backpay where employees face a delay in receiving any new pay rise, and a common pay rise date that brings agencies and departments in line with each other.

APSC chief negotiator Peter Riordan previously said no employee would be disadvantaged under the agreed-upon arrangements and broad support had already been reached on 35 conditions.

“This government can and should be aspiring for broad support for the whole pay and conditions package, and they are conveniently, already more than halfway there,” Ms Donnelly said. “The conditions that have been negotiated have broad support, but they need to do better on pay.

“APS employees care about the public service and about public service delivery, and that is why they are prepared to fight for better outcomes in bargaining.”

The CPSU’s action against the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry is unlikely to be the last, with the union saying it will continue to work with members and delegates across the APS and consider “which agencies to look to next”.

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