Inquiry exposes Turnbull Govt’s public sector bargaining failures

The CPSU will today appear before a Senate Inquiry to outline the Turnbull Government’s need to fix their failure in enterprise bargaining for Commonwealth agencies, include the harm caused to public services and 150,000 public sector workers in a dispute which has stretched for almost three years.

The Senate’s Education and Employment References Committee is holding its first public hearing into the issue in Canberra today, with a second hearing scheduled for Townsville on Tuesday next week.

The union has made a detailed submission, along with 25 agency bargaining teams and hundreds of individual Commonwealth workers, to the inquiry into the Impact of the Government's Workplace Bargaining Policy and approach to Commonwealth public sector bargaining.

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “This inquiry will highlight how the Turnbull Government’s public sector bargaining mess is hurting workers but also damaging services that millions of Australians rely on. Unlike any other major employer in the public or private sector, this Government has pursued an extended industrial dispute with its own workforce but refuses to even sit down and talk about a resolution.”

“This is a mess by any definition. After well over 1,000 days there are still 100,000 public sector workers without new agreements. Many staff who have agreements in place remain concerned at the rights they have lost such as family friendly conditions. A Government bargaining policy requiring agencies to cut important rights and allowing no improvements, while there’s no money on the table, is profoundly unfair and unrealistic.”

“As the hundreds of stories in submissions to this inquiry make clear, this mess has had a real human cost for people working in these agencies, along with hitting staff morale and hampering agencies providing critical services to the public. There are tens of thousands of mums and dads who are deeply worried about what the loss of family-friendly rights would mean for the balance between their work and home commitments.”

“The majority of public sector workers are on average or below average wages, struggling like everyone else to pay their rent or mortgage and put food on the table. It’s not right that a working mum on under $60,000 a year in DHS is facing her third Christmas without a pay rise because she can’t afford to give up the workplace rights and conditions that allow her to juggle work and picking up the kids.”

“Public sector workers have been fighting along with the CPSU for more than three years to resolve this fairly. We have seen an unprecedented level of strikes everywhere from Airports to Centrelink offices and staff forced to vote down dud deals multiple times, such as 82% of Immigration and Border Force staff just last week.”

“The Government’s approach has been to try to protect this failed policy by starving workers out with a wage freeze and then redefining successful workplace relations as scraping a deal over the line at just 51% of the workforce voting for it, even after three years. They blithely refuse to admit there’s a problem, despite the overwhelming weight of evidence to the contrary.”

“We’ll be telling the committee this mess could be cleaned up relatively quickly if the Government sat down to talk, took a sensible approach and agreed to recognise important rights and conditions, and provide a little bit in peoples pay packets recognising they have saved a fortune over three long years.”  

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