Home Affairs arbitration ends but CPSU fights on for pay and conditions

The Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission issued a final Workplace Determination for the Department of Home Affairs late on Friday, with the CPSU to now turn its focus to fixing the broken rules that have allowed the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government’s malicious four-year attack on the pay and conditions of ordinary workers.

The Workplace Determination will set the pay and conditions for Home Affairs workers for the next two years in place of a negotiated Enterprise Bargaining Agreement, after industrial action including airport strikes was terminated in October 2016.

The determination has rejected key elements of the destructive ideological agenda pursued by Home Affairs on behalf of the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government, though Fair Work has acceded to cuts pushed by the Government on some issues.

Positive outcomes for Home Affairs workers, including Australian Border Force officers, include:

  • Use of Force Allowance retained for ABF officers
  • National Staff Consultative Forum retained
  • Consultation requirement on policy retained
  • Performance management categories retained
  • Overtime to be paid after standard day retained
  • Retention periods for redundancy retained
  • Dog Detector Unit handling allowances retained
  • Training Officer allowances retained
  • Pay rises beyond the Government’s wages cap, with some backpay

Negatives include:

  • Longer working day for ABF officers without compensation
  • Airport and other work location allowances to be cut
  • Marine Unit duty days increased by five days per year
  • FWC arbitration power in disputes removed
  • Workplace Delegate Rights removed

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “This decision is far from a perfect outcome but shows, when workers are faced with the choice of the scorched earth approach taken by the Government and department or fighting to protect their conditions and pay, this was a fight worth having. CPSU members fought tooth and nail to protect their pay and conditions, and their jobs are in a much stronger position because of that effort. The strength and commitment of our members, including an unprecedented and high-profile campaign of strikes at international airports, has held the line against much of the hard-line agenda that’s been pushed by the Government.”

“This outcome shows the system does not work. The Department and Government threw up every possible obstacle, both legal and otherwise, to try to stop hardworking staff from getting a fair deal. The Commonwealth went to Fair Work with a hostile and punitive approach, pushing for workers to be given no pay rise whatsoever while having their workplace rights and conditions slashed.”

“We’ve been able to hold onto some allowances and conditions and secure a pay rise beyond the Government’s low wage cap, including some backpay. We are disappointed with many elements of this determination, but recognise that Fair Work’s options have been limited by a system that is broken and needs to be fixed. The Government’s largely failed in its attack, but has still been allowed to cause years of unnecessary hardship as Home Affairs staff including Border Force officers were subjected to five years with no pay rise during this dispute.”

“The Government’s harsh and unreasonable public sector bargaining policy drove much of the agenda that’s behind this ugly dispute, as Fair Work itself has recognised in criticising the conduct of the Australian Public Service Commission. It took more than four years to settle bargaining for the vast majority of Commonwealth workers and yet Home Affairs was the only department that was even able to access arbitration through Fair Work after the Commonwealth applied to terminate industrial action at international airports.”

“The Government’s public sector bargaining policy and the industrial relations laws that allowed this bargaining mess to fester for years have not been fixed. Our priorities now for Home Affairs workers are to change the Government so we can secure fair pay and conditions going forward and fix the broken rules that are allowing hostile employers such as the current Government to hurt workers.”


All electoral communications authorised by Nadine Flood, Community and Public Sector Union (PSU Group), Sydney