28 September 2023

CPSU to escalate industrial action despite members' support for latest APSC pay offer

| Andrew McLaughlin
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The CPSU will escalate its industrial action against Services Australia after rejecting the APSC’s latest pay offer. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) says its Services Australia members will escalate their industrial action after it rejected the latest pay offer from the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC), despite its members voting to accept the offer by a slim margin.

In a 27 September statement, the CPSU said it had run a protected action ballot, that the industrial action it had already taken in Services Australia, including an Auxiliary Code Ban and a one-hour work stoppage would be escalated, and that it would be lodging applications for further protected action ballots in other agencies.

It said the revised pay offer put forward by the APSC was 11.2 per cent over three years, a 0.7 per cent increase over the first offer that was rejected by its members. That 11.2 per cent comprises 4 per cent in the first year, 3.8 per cent in the second year and 3.4 per cent in the third year.

READ ALSO Negotiations over APS wages ramping up this week

The CPSU said that following extensive consultation with its 15,000 members and a member poll, a slim margin of 51.9 per cent of its members voted to accept the Government’s offer versus 48.1 per cent to reject it. CPSU National Secretary Melissa Donnelly said the margin isn’t clear enough for the union to recommend its members support the offer.

“There is strong support for the conditions package that has been negotiated, including the industry-leading working-from-home rights, increases to paid parental leave, the reintroduction of job security provisions and increased casual loading rates,” she said.

“But in an environment where every APS worker is feeling extreme cost-of-living pressures, the current pay offer just doesn’t cut it. The government can and should do better – and that means making an offer that has clear support from employees.

“The test for the Albanese Government as an employer isn’t just being better than the Coalition Government, it is to be a model employer – a goal they set for themselves,” Ms Donnelly added.

“As a union, we will now escalate our campaign across the APS and fight for an improved outcome on pay. This will include escalated industrial action in Services Australia and the lodgement of applications for protected action ballots in other agencies.”

READ ALSO Just how hard will a union go against a Labor government anyway?

The CPSU had previously demanded a 20 per cent pay increase over three years and has been involved in protracted negotiations since. The union had also demanded 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 into line with each other.

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

In a brief statement late on 27 September, Minister for the Public Service Senator Katy Gallagher said the outcome of the CPSU ballot showed a majority position to support the Government’s offer.

“We have bargained in good faith and worked hard to improve wages and conditions for public servants after a decade of neglect under the former government,” she said.

“The government looks forward to finalising the agreements as soon as possible.”

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If members are well informed, why would they vote for a pay cut? That’s right, a pay CUT. When the pay rise is less than CPI, you get an effective pay cut. Example, the price of a dozen eggs rises by 20% due to inflation, so they go from $5 to $6. You get a pay increase of 10%, which seems impressive. However, look at it closely. Instead of being paid $5, you get $5.50, but eggs are now $6, so you are 50c worse off. A 20% pay rise over 3 years at today’s inflation is less than a 10% pay rise over 3 years, 5 years ago.

The Departments post intranet news articles that are very biased towards the APS side of the bargaining table. No doubt this sways the vote of some ignorant members. The messaging often states that it’s the largest increase for a long time, but fails to mention the increase is less than CPI, so is effectively a pay cut. This should be regulated to ensure balanced views.

I thought the CPSU was a democracy, seems it isnt and the leadership is only looking out for themselves (as per usual) and trying to advance their careers/profile within the labor movement and ALP to get themselves elected as a future ALP MP. A majority is a majority, even a slim one and they need to follow that majority. Im glad I’m no longer a union member.

The CPSU said 15,000 members voted. This represents less than 10% of the entire APS workforce. Why on earth can we be held to ransom by an irrelevant organisation with decreasing membership?

How exactly are you held to ransom by them? Everyone gets to vote on the agreement once the APSC decide to put it out to vote.

Perhaps if some people weren’t so willing to accept scraps at the pay table and instead became active members of a union, you might get a better deal?

To accept a deal when almost half of your members aren’t satisfied wouldn’t have been very sensible from the CPSU. Maybe the CPSU can go back with a pay proposal of 19.3%.

I’m not sure the CPSU are doing themselves any favours by dragging on negotiations any further. Sure some staff at Services Australia are annoyed, but why hold the rest of the APS over a barrel, all of who are waiting for this bargaining to be done so we can get pay increases.
They really are struggling for relevancy and over-riding a majority vote from their members surely won’t help the cause.

devils_advocate1:08 pm 28 Sep 23

Some people don’t have such a high discount rate.

Why accept scraps now instead of a fair pay offer, even if it takes some time to secure it?

Let the government feel some pain, the unions have been too soft for too long.

Isn’t this just the bargaining agreement for Services Australia? It doesn’t effect other Agreements…

No – the APSC is currently bargaining on behalf of all APS agencies – so because the CPSU is favouring the minority of their members (and therefore the extreme minority of APS employees), the bargaining continues and we continue with no certainty about when we can expect pay increases or no certainty about what the pay increase will be. I think it is timely for the APSC and ministers to stand up and call out the CPSU for being blockers and not really acting in the interests of APS employees.

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