Third strike for Agriculture as 51% No vote sinks deal


Operation Fluoro' delegates talking to staff about the danger posed by a bad agreement.

Staff in the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources have voted 51% No to a proposed enterprise agreement, becoming the first workers in the current dispute to reject their agency’s offer three times. The result came after a divisive offer which split the workforce, with frontline staff asking senior staff based in Canberra to join them in voting No.

The department announced the result this morning after the ballot closed on Friday. The participation rate of 86% was higher than management’s previous attempts, a 52% No vote in December last year and a 67% rejection in October.

The close result confirms the participation of CPSU members working in Agriculture in next week’s mass strike action at international airports and other key Government sites. Agriculture staff will strike along with Immigration and Border Force on March 24, following 24-hours strikes at agencies including Medicare, Centrelink, the Tax Office, Defence, the Bureau of Meteorology, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Bureau of Statistics.

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “This No vote in Agriculture is the first time during this protracted dispute that a major agency’s offer has been rejected by staff three times. CPSU members in agriculture are now preparing to join next week’s mass strike action across Government agencies and international airports. Given Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull  has not taken up our offer two weeks ago of talks to fix this mess, we have no choice but to proceed.”

“Line-ball results like this show the Government is flogging a dead horse with its divisive strategy of forcing agencies to split their workforce with pushing cuts to rights for many, rather than sitting down and making the relatively modest changes that would allow a fair and sensible resolution after two years of unnecessary conflict.”

“CPSU members in Agriculture have told us they won’t accept changes to shift allowances that would have cut their take-home pay, or a deal that doesn’t fairly compensate them for this drawn-out process. As at many other agencies, staff also remain deeply concerned that important rights and conditions are being moved out of agreements into unenforceable policy that can be unilaterally changed in the future.”

“This result came after frontline staff in Agriculture launched 'Operation Fluoro', with CPSU delegates going on strike and flying to Canberra to explain to senior staff voting on this deal how Biosecurity staff would lose out and asking for their support. It's a credit to them that despite a two year pay freeze, a majority of their colleagues have listened and backed in their co-workers.”

“We’re in a situation where more than eight out of 10 people who work in the public sector still don’t have a new agreement. Departments are either deeply divided, such as is the case with Agriculture staff, or have categorically rejected the loss of important family-friendly and other rights and conditions, with 85% voting No at the Tax Office, 81% No in Immigration and Border Force and nearly 80% No in the Department of Human Services.”

“With strike action looming next week, the Turnbull Government needs to drop the cuts and sit down with us to discuss a sensible solution to this bargaining mess.”

Easter strike details

  • APS wide strike on 21/03/16: 24-hour strike action by eligible members in a range of APS agencies including AAT, ABS, ATO, BoM, Defence , DHS, DPS, Education, Environment, GeoScience, IP Australia, PM&C and Synchrotron.
  • DIBP & DAWR strike on 24/03/16: 24-hour strike on Easter Thursday by members in Immigration, Border Protection and Agriculture including at international airports.
  • Rolling airport stoppages: DIBP members including Border Force members will undertake several weeks of extended rolling stoppages, with action commencing after the APS strike on 21 March at international airports.