Breakaway members of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) have called on national secretary Melissa Donnelly to resign from the ALP’s national executive over negotiations on APS wages.
A team of rank-and-file activists calling themselves Members United are contesting the CPSU’s elections for all executive committee positions and some governing council and section council positions across the union.
They have written to Ms Donnelly calling on her to resign from the Labor Party’s national executive because it jeopardises her role in negotiating for a better wage outcome for public servants.
Members United candidates insist the Federal Government’s offer of an 11.2 per cent pay rise over three years is not good enough and that Ms Donnelly’s position on the ALP national executive has compromised her campaigning for a better deal.
“Members United candidates commit not to be on the management body of any political party while on the executive of the CPSU,” they have stated in messages to union members.
“We ask that she resign (from the ALP national executive) in protest and stand with our members, or explain to the membership that she is on the ALP’s national executive and why she believes she should remain.”
Ms Donnelly’s membership of the ALP national executive has not been something the CPSU has wanted to highlight, or even talk about.
But Region has long pointed out the compromising position the role has placed the CPSU in.
In a letter sent to CPSU members this week seen by Region, Members United ask for support in next month’s union elections, saying if their candidates are elected a full vote will be run and honoured over whether the CPSU should remain affiliated with the ALP.
It refers members to William Mudford, who is running for CPSU national secretary.
“Our candidates come from current membership coverage areas – we’re not career union officials,” the letter says.
“We bring experience and a fresh perspective.
“We will continue to fight against years of decline in public service pay and the cost of living crisis.”
The move has been welcomed by some members, who are calling it a positive step.
But others have responded with scepticism.
“More complaints, no solutions from Members United,” one critic has written on social media.
Another pointed out that some Members United candidates actually work for ALP and Greens politicians.
“Members United commit to not being on the management body of a party, but have no problem being advisers to politicians,” they wrote.
In response, Members United said if its candidates are elected to the CPSU executive positions, they would leave their party political jobs.
“All of our candidates are rank and file CPSU members,” Members United wrote.
“Members United candidates have pledged not to sit on the management committee of any political party during their term.”
The issue has come to a head over how the CPSU hierarchy responded to the government’s pay offer.
After rejecting the Australian Public Service Commission’s initial offer of a 10.5 per cent wage increase over three years, the union secured a renewed offer from the government.
CPSU bosses appeared to be priming the union’s membership to accept the new offer of 11.5 per cent over three years – until it detected a Members United backlash and a move on the executive.
The CPSU membership voted 51.9 per cent in favour of accepting the pay deal, but the rattled leadership rejected the offer nonetheless, saying the vote was not decisive enough.
“We have a unique opportunity with service-wide bargaining to negotiate a package that brings together 160,000 employees across 103 different agencies after what has been an incredibly challenging decade for public sector workers. But an offer with 51 per cent support doesn’t do that,” Ms Donnelly said.
“The CPSU has rejected this offer because we know that we can and we should be aiming higher than 50 per cent, plus one.”
But the backlash led by Members United says the national secretary has only started talking tough since her position and the positions of other CPSU executive members have become threatened.
The Australian Electoral Commission will send all eligible and financial CPSU members ballot papers for a union vote that opens on 1 November and closes at 10 am on 6 November.