CPSU members in the firing line—time to fire back

The CPSU says that over 1000 workers in the Australian Public Service (APS) have joined the union in the past two weeks. Officials say they are gearing up for a major campaign including protected industrial action over enterprise bargaining.

We are in the firing line for job cuts, privatisation and pay offers below the cost of living. And that’s on top of further cuts to services.

The Liberal government’s bargaining policy will potentially strip agreements of long standing conditions.

They plan to pare back working conditions and pay, by effectively refusing to negotiate on improvements. Workers will not be offered a pay rise unless they sacrifice conditions.

The most widely publicised draft agreement is in the Department of Human Services (DHS) where workers were offered a pay rise averaging 1.2 per cent a year. This compares to current inflation of 3 per cent annually, a substantial pay cut in real terms. On top of this, about 60 per cent of existing conditions are targeted for removal from the Enterprise Agreement—working hours are being increased, sick and carers leave is being cut, and a previously negotiated pay rise for many staff was also targeted.

Similarly bad agreements are being discussed in other agencies. For example, a leak from the Department of Defence suggested workers would be offered a 2.65 per cent pay rise in total over three years.

More than 700 fearful but angry staff joined the union in DHS, where previous job cuts have already left staff overworked. A further 20,000 jobs are now threatened by government plans to privatise the administration of Medicare and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme claims.

The attack on its own workforce is part of Abbott’s budget broadside against all workers, as the government targets ordinary people with the $7 GP co-payment, pension cuts and the plan to deny under 30s the dole.

A serious CPSU industrial campaign would win tremendous support from the wider community—workers, professionals, people with disabilities, childcare users, pensioners, the unemployed and students. Our clients are the community, including other workers also under threat from higher unemployment and rising costs of living.

This government does not make idle threats, and we must respond in kind. With 160,000 still employed in the APS, and average union membership density 30-40 per cent, the union has a tremendous opportunity to build a campaign with political clout that can inspire support across the community. It’s time to fight back.

By a CPSU delegate, Melbourne


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