Public Service Minister Katy Gallagher insists there will be no further revised APS wage offers made despite industrial action being ramped up over what is currently on the table.
The minister added that the government could also bypass the unions and take the whole wages and conditions package directly to the APS workforce for a vote in order to reach a resolution.
She said many APS employees are telling the government they want their pay rises and are happy to accept what’s on offer.
Community and Public Sector Union members in the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations will strike today (2 November) for one hour, making it the 4th round of industrial action taken by the CPSU during the current bargaining round.
The ongoing strike actions are protests against the 11.2 per cent over three years APS-wide wage rise the Federal Government has offered, which was revised up from an initial 10.5 per cent rise over the same period.
The union overwhelmingly rejected that first offer and the revised offer was accepted by a slim majority of CPSU members but rejected by the union’s leadership.
The CPSU has a claim in for a 20 per cent wage increase.
But speaking to the media on Wednesday (1 November), Senator Gallagher said there would be no further wage offers made.
“No. I revised the offer in the terms of their [CPSU] original feedback. That offer was actually voted up by their membership. There’s a little bit more work to do, obviously, from their point of view,” she said.
“We want to be a model employer, we want to work with the unions, but ultimately, we want to be able to give staff a pay rise… I think the government’s been more than generous.
“We can put the offer to the APS staff … not the preferred way of doing things … but I don’t want to see people not getting their pay rises in March either.”
The minister said the government had been responsive to demands from the CPSU, which had secured some extra conditions for APS employees, like generous parental leave and flexible working arrangements, but the union leadership rejected the package because it was not happy with the pay increase being offered.
“They’ve said no to us once, we came back, we’ve revised the offer, we’ve improved the conditions, we’ve employed more staff, we’ve done a lot in the last 18 months,” Senator Gallagher said.
“I think we’re probably close, but we haven’t got there yet … I think there’s a huge opportunity for the CPSU leadership to actually stand up and actually guide this outcome through.
“I think the CPSU’s leadership has a proud record of achievement and they should take ownership of this and actually get it through on their members’ behalf and for the betterment of the APS as a whole.”
CPSU national secretary Melissa Donnelly said strikes would continue, noting that meat inspectors and on-plant vets at the Agriculture Department were also now permitted and primed to take industrial action.
“We want to see the Albanese Labor Government come back to the bargaining table with a revised pay offer so that we can continue to move forward in the bargaining process,” Ms Donnelly said.
“Our members have been clear from the beginning – they want to see this round of bargaining deliver a decent pay rise without any delays.
“Right now, we aren’t risking delays to pay rises. But if the government doesn’t come back to the bargaining table with a revised pay offer soon, there is a risk that timelines could begin to blow out.
“Service-wide bargaining has delivered a raft of significant improvements to workers’ conditions, which will see employees and the APS benefit, but the Albanese Labor Government must do better on pay.
“It’s time to get on with the job of giving APS workers the long overdue decent pay rise they need and deserve.”
Compounding the impact of the stalemate is Members United, a grassroots campaign inside the CPSU criticising the union’s leadership over affiliation with the Australian Labor Party.
Members United campaigners are contesting CPSU executive roles in the current union election, saying the current leadership has not negotiated hard enough for a better pay deal.
Jordana Colvin, a Members United candidate for CPSU national assistant secretary, said it was time to change CPSU leadership.
“The problem with the current CPSU leadership is that they’ve bet the farm on getting Labor in power and delivering a good deal,” she said.
“Now, members are right to wonder whether they’ve been sold a lemon.”