News : Department of Human Services Staff Begin Industrial Action
Dec 16, 2014 -- Industrial action within the 15,000-strong Department of Human Services (DHS) has begun in response to an offer of a pay rise of less than 1 per cent a year and changes to conditions.
National Secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), Nadine Flood said Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support staff took a range of "low-level" actions on 11 December 2014, including working in casual clothes instead of corporate uniforms and reading out messages of protest to call centre customers, as initial actions designed to demonstrate staff concern.
"The CPSU has no intention of taking action that could hit payments to the public in the lead-up to Christmas," Ms Flood said.
But the level and frequency of industrial action was likely to increase dramatically next year unless the Government listened to staff, withdrew their cuts and improved their offer, she said.
"Centrelink and Medicare staff have had to cop thousands of job cuts over the years and now this Government is going after their conditions," Ms Flood said.
"They are angry and concerned at moves to change their working hours without consultation, cuts to their leave and the removal of their workplace rights in return for a pay rise of less than 1 per cent a year," she said.
"This is the first salvo in what could be a long and difficult bargaining battle for the Government."
She said industrial action was also expected to commence in the Department of Veterans' Affairs shortly, while more than 90 per cent of staff in Minister of Employment, Senator Eric Abetz's own Employment Department were set to reject a new workplace agreement that delivered "wide-ranging cuts to rights and conditions in return for a pay rise of less than 0.5 per cent a year".
The vote for the proposed agreement for Employment staff opened on Wednesday, 10 December and closes on 15 December 2014.
Ms Flood said all eyes will be on the vote by Employment staff that could be a litmus test for industrial relations across the entire Australian Public Service (APS).
"Minister Abetz needs to acknowledge that his approach is not working and agree to sit down with the CPSU to work out a sensible way forward," she said.
"We remain ready and willing to talk, but the Minister is still refusing to meet and discuss the Government's bargaining policy."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About Australian Government Department of Human Services:
The Australian Department of Human Services (DHS) is a department of the Government of Australia charged with responsibility for delivering a range of welfare, public aid, health and other services to the people of Australia.
Published: Tuesday, December 16, 2014