Yes vote finally ends DHS bargaining deadlock

Workers in the Commonwealth’s largest agency, the Department of Human Services, have voted 71% Yes to a new enterprise agreement to end their more than three-year fight to protect critical workplace rights and conditions.

It was the fourth time DHS staff across Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support had voted in the current round of bargaining, with 77% of eligible staff participating in the ballot.

The CPSU did not oppose the new agreement and the result stands in contrast to the emphatic rejection of previous agreement proposals that sought to strip rights and conditions, with votes of 74% No in November 2016, 79% No in February 2016 and 87% No in September 2015.

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “This Yes vote is a significant turn-around from previous ballots. DHS management finally realised that retaining workplace rights and conditions was the key to settlement and as a result the CPSU did not oppose this agreement.”

“This new agreement is far better than those previously rejected though it still falls short of what hardworking staff in Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support deserve, particularly given there’s no compensation for more than four years without a pay rise.”

“It was a difficult decision for DHS staff voting for a fourth time, with understandable anger remaining over this messy and unnecessary dispute. In the end staff have recognised the bargaining progress made in recent months as DHS bosses finally realised that rights and conditions was the core issue, particularly family-friendly rights that let people balance work with other commitments such as dropping the kids off at school or day care.”

“It’s been a tough time for DHS staff, who’ve not only been forced into this long bargaining fight but also had to deal with the impact from the thousands of permanent jobs that have been slashed and of course the on-going impact of the robo-debt mess. The biggest question members now have is how we change the system to ensure this never happens again.”

“DHS is the largest Commonwealth agency and this result is a significant step towards resolving enterprise bargaining across the board, following the lead set by other recent agreements approved including Tax, Defence, Agriculture, CSIRO and Prime Minister and Cabinet.”

“Significant challenges still remain though, with bosses in agencies such as the Bureau of Meteorology and the Federal Courts still not getting the message about what they need to do to resolve bargaining. We are also continuing our fight in the Fair Work Commission to get a decent outcome for Immigration and Border Force workers through arbitration.”

“This dispute has dragged on for well over three years because of the Turnbull Government’s anti-worker agenda, causing immense damage to the Commonwealth public sector. We are doing everything we can to fix workplace laws in this country that are frankly broken so this kind of mess can never be repeated.”