The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has delivered on its threats to escalate industrial action at Services Australia, saying members who work for the agency will strike for 24 hours on Monday, 9 October, after the union rejected a pay offer from the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC).
The strike is part of an escalation of industrial action the union threatened to implement on Wednesday (27 September), despite its members narrowly voting to accept the latest 11.2 per cent pay increase over three years offered by the APSC.
The industrial action taken to date at Services Australia includes an Auxiliary Code Ban and a series of one-hour work stoppages. The APSC subsequently raised its pay increase offer from 10.5 per cent over three years to 11.2 per cent – broken down to 4 per cent in the first year, 3.8 per cent in the second year and 3.4 per cent in the third year – and 51.9 per cent of the CPSU’s 15,000 members voted to accept the offer.
CPSU National Secretary Melissa Donnelly said the margin wasn’t clear enough for the union to recommend its members support the offer, describing it as a “meagre” increase on the first 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.
“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.
“The CPSU has rejected this offer because we know that we can and we should be aiming higher than 50 per cent plus one,” she added.
The union had previously demanded a 20 per cent pay increase over three years – which many observers have described as arbitrary – and has been involved in protracted negotiations with the APSC since.
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 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.
“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,” Ms Donnelly said.
“But in an environment where every APS worker is feeling extreme cost of living pressures, the current pay offer doesn’t cut it. Our members are ready to increase pressure as needed to secure a better outcome on pay,” she added.
“In Services Australia, union members will be participating in a 24-hour strike, and further applications for Protected Action Ballots will be shortly lodged in other APS workplaces.