After three years of failed negotiations and an agenda from management that continues to unfairly target front-line staff, union members at the Bureau of Meteorology have announced an escalation of industrial action. The move has thrown senior management into a panic as they scramble to fill rosters and maintain services during our three-week action. Bureau staff have not had a pay rise in three years, and have voted down two proposed agreements that combined unacceptable cuts to pay and conditions with a measly pay offer.
Bureau staff are now acting to try to resolve this situation. Seeking to cause maximum disruption, many of us are planning to take short work stoppages, from half an hour up to three-and-a-half hours, with no notice. The union has given undertakings that it will support the maintenance of a skeleton staff so that critical services such as severe weather warnings are not compromised, but is leaving it up to management to find replacements for key members who plan to take industrial action.
And most do, because the Bureau is pushing ahead with plans to cut shift penalties, reduce remote locality allowances and cut travel entitlements. These changes hit front-line operational forecasters and observers at the Bureau the hardest - the same staff with the ability to take truly disruptive industrial action.
Management claim that they are restricted by the federal Bargaining Policy. But we who work here know that what they’re pushing would cause irreparable damage to the Bureau, and we can see that numerous other Commonwealth agencies are negotiating far superior pay deals without similar cutbacks.
After years of cuts through the so-called efficiency dividend, in which agency budgets are reduced by a percentage each year in the expectation that they do ‘more with less’, many at the Bureau think that it is no longer possible to save money without reducing the quality of public weather service they provide. And clearly our managers agree, which is why the ‘savings measures’ from which the proposed pay rise will be funded largely come from reducing staff numbers at the Bureau and from reducing the entitlements of shift workers, regional workers and compensation for staff who spend time on the road.
Other agencies have managed to end years of damaging division over bargaining and put imperfect but much improved agreements to a vote. It remains to be seen whether a similar breakthrough will be made at the Bureau or whether we will slide towards summer, the season of bushfires and tropical cyclones, with a weather agency divided by internal conflict.
I encourage you to support Bureau staff by writing to your local Member of Parliament, calling your local radio station and supporting us on social media. Help us end this dispute and get back to doing what we love.
CPSU BOM Acting Section Secretary