Full Bench of FWC starts hearings as DIBP workers take on Commonwealth

The Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission will today begin hearings to resolve a 4 year dispute for thousands of Immigration and Border Force workers, in what’s the biggest industrial relations legal case since Qantas grounded its fleet. Fair Work’s Full Bench will consider the case and arbitrate the pay and conditions of workers, with the hearings in Canberra beginning more than a year after the commission halted industrial action by CPSU members including strikes at international airports.

Legal counsel for the Commonwealth Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) will give its opening address today, with the CPSU’s opening address scheduled for the next hearing date this Friday. The Commonwealth Government continues to push for reductions to existing allowances, rights and conditions and is maintaining their longstanding wage freeze.

The CPSU’s witness list for the case includes former Treasurer Wayne Swan and Cabinet Minister Craig Emerson, former Immigration Department First Assistant Secretary Christopher Callanan, three Professors and eight CPSU members working in DIBP.

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “The beginning of this landmark case in the Fair Work Commission marks a momentous day for thousands of our members working in Immigration and the Australian Border Force. This has been a very long fight for fair pay and conditions and is the biggest arbitration case in Fair Work since Qantas grounded its entire fleet six years ago.”

“Immigration and Border Force workers have now gone more than four years without a pay rise and yet Ministers Michaelia Cash and Peter Dutton are still pushing to cut real wages and for some even cut their take-home pay. Ministers Cash and Dutton are sending in DIBP’s bosses to have the Commonwealth claim they can’t afford to treat these workers decently, and ironically they’re using a massively expensive legal team to try to prove their point.”

“This crazy situation forced our members into a long campaign of safe but effective industrial action, including strikes at international airports. It’s just over a year since those strikes ended, yet the department and ministers have shown no sign of coming to their senses and agreeing to a sensible outcome that recognises the critical roles DIBP staff play.”

“Our members are responsible professionals who care deeply about their critical duties and just need a fair deal for their families. We didn’t pick this fight but we will be arguing forcefully for an outcome that recognises the hardship this dispute has forced on CPSU members and their families, allowing workers to get on with their important work without their pay and workplace conditions going backwards.”

“This situation in DIBP, and indeed the disastrous situation across Commonwealth agencies under the Turnbull Government’s public sector bargaining policy, clearly shows that Australia’s industrial relations system is broken. DIBP was the only agency even able to access arbitration through Fair Work despite years of battling, and these workers won’t get a decision until 2018. This situation clearly shows we need to change the rules that favour aggressive employers over ordinary working people. Waging a war of attrition on workers through a 4 year dispute and a nasty wage freeze, as the Turnbull Government has done across the Commonwealth public sector, is a vicious approach that has no place in a modern, fair industrial relations system.”