4 October 2023

Fair Work Ombudsman the latest target of CPSU action over wages

| Chris Johnson
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CPSU National Secretary Melissa Donnelly

CPSU National Secretary Melissa Donnelly says the union will target more APS agencies over the wages dispute. Photo: CPSU.

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has expanded its strike targets by including the Fair Work Ombudsman in proposed industrial action over APS-wide wages.

An application for a protected action ballot among staff in the Fair Work Ombudsman has been approved by the Fair Work Commission.

CPSU members have already voted to escalate industrial action at Services Australia, with a 24-hour strike planned for Monday 9 October.

These plans follow the union’s hierarchy deciding a 51.9 per cent membership vote in favour of the Federal Government’s pay increase offer was not a decisive enough result.

The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) has offered an 11.2 per cent wage increase over three years for all APS employees, which was a revised offer after its earlier bid of 10.5 per cent was rejected.

The CPSU has now officially rejected the revised offer from the government and is embarking on further industrial action.

The union has previously demanded a 20 per cent increase over three years.

A protected action ballot will now give union members in the Fair Work Ombudsman the opportunity to vote on taking protected industrial action, including work restrictions, stoppages and strike action.

The ballot only needs to return a vote of 50 per cent plus one in favour for the action to be implemented by the union.

READ ALSO Yes means yes but only sometimes, apparently

CPSU national secretary Melissa Donnelly said her union members will be voting on taking protected actions as they push the government to improve its current pay offer.

“The Albanese Labor Government made a commitment to the public service prior to their election to become a model employer and to rebuild the APS after a decade of damage and destruction,” Ms Donnelly said.

“The CPSU intends on holding them to that commitment.”

Union members in Services Australia and the Fair Work Ombudsman will not be the only APS employees participating in industrial action, with Ms Donnelly indicating that the list of targets will grow as needed.

The CPSU plans to lodge further applications for protected action ballots this week.

“We have a unique opportunity with service-wide bargaining to negotiate a package that brings together a fragmented and disparate APS. But an offer with 51 per cent support doesn’t do that,” she 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. And so should the government.”

Finance and Public Service Minister Katy Gallagher said, following the union’s rejection of the pay offer, that it was a matter for the CPSU to explain why a majority vote was overruled.

“They’re responding to pockets of their membership, I imagine… I can’t control that,” Senator Gallagher said.

“I was hopeful that with the majority vote – and I’m not pretending it wasn’t a slim majority – that we could have proceeded to put this and finalise this agreement. But that’s not the case.”

READ ALSO Rejecting a majority vote on wages is a matter for the union to explain, says Minister

Senator Gallagher said the government’s point of view is that the offer was fair and affordable, and had been revised after feedback from the union following the first offer.

“And the pay offer we’ve got on is more than double the pay offers that were given in the previous decade,” she said.

“I feel like we have come to the table and put a good package on it, and I’m hopeful that we can reach agreement as soon as possible.”

CPSU members at the Fair Work Ombudsman will be voting to participate in three separate actions: an unlimited number of stoppages of work for periods of up to and including one hour; an unlimited number of stoppages of work for periods of more than one hour and up to and including 24 hours; and an unlimited number of actions in the form of including an authorised CPSU statement in email signatures.

The union says it is now working with its members and delegates across other APS workplaces to decide which agencies will be the next targets of industrial action.

As those agencies are identified, further applications for protected action ballots will be lodged with the Fair Work Commission.

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So they’ll accept a 50%+1 vote result to strike, but won’t accept a vote of nearly 52% of members to accept what was on offer….

William Teach1:32 am 07 Oct 23

The other unions all said no, and they have the leverage to cause real problems if they strike for long enough. Also, some of the people voting to strike could switch from the CPSU to PA without demarcation issues and almost certainly would if they don’t get the support they need.

Also, the government could put the current proposed EA to each department and see if it gets up. If Gallagher really thinks most public servants are stupid enough to think this is a good deal, she can ask them directly.

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