Public sector strikes at international airports across the nation this morning appear to have had little impact on flight schedules but the Community and Public Sector Union is vowing to continue its fight to bring the government to the negotiating table.
The union staged four hour strikes at Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane airports this morning “to protest the Abbott Government’s attack on [customs and immigration workers’]rights, conditions and take home pay,” mostly between 6 and 10 am.
Customs and Immigration said it was "able to maintain our normal robust border security and processing procedures at Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane airports during the period of protected industrial action," but there are further work stoppages planned to take place in Perth, Adelaide, Cairns, the Gold Coast and Sydney later this evening.
“Public sector workers on our borders undertake important, difficult and sometimes dangerous jobs on behalf of our community – they deserve better,” CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said.
“Workers are facing the loss of up to $8,000 a year – even more for those in remote areas or with specialised skills – from their take home pay.
“The Abbott Government is insisting the department take an axe to the allowances that make up much of their pay packets which compensate them for weeks away from family at sea, using firearms, meeting high fitness standards, working long hours, unusual shifts and performing dirty and/or dangerous work.”
The CPSU said that the after more than a year of negotiations over new enterprise bargaining agreements for public sector workers, the Abbott government and Department of Employment have put forward conditions “worse than any major private sector employer” is offering.
The enterprise agreements governing the public sector expired on June 30 last year but, according to the CPSU, 98.5 per cent of public sector workers are still without new agreements after a year of fruitless negotiations.
Flood said the government’s failure to strike a deal, which has already seen extensive industrial action grip at least 16 government agencies, is part of a broader attack on public sector workers.
“The Abbott Government has cut more than 17,000 public sector jobs and is now going after the pay and conditions of those left,” she said.
“While this action will impact on the public, the real target is the Abbott Government’s unfair and unworkable bargaining policy which stands between these workers and getting a fair deal.”
— CPSU (@CPSUnion) August 2, 2015
This morning’s delays mooted to affect the busy peak hour do not appear to have materialised, though, with a spokesperson for Melbourne airport telling New Matilda that “in terms of our operations, they haven’t been affected. There’s been no delays”.
Sydney also escaped largely unscathed after the Department of Immigration and Border Protection put "carefully planned contingency arrangements in place to protect Australia’s borders and ensure priority areas are managed and the impact of protected industrial action is mitigated".
The CPSU strikes also extended to the Department of Agriculture – including quarantine – and the Australian Border Force Marine Unit which staged “in port” bans on loading and pre-departure checks, routines and maintenance activities which will continue into the coming week.
A deal to end the strikes has been difficult for individual departments to secure because the union is unsatisfied with the Department of Employment’s Bargaining Policy, which sets out the general parameters within which other departments can negotiate pay and conditions.
“Minister Abetz will no doubt come out with his usual line about excessive pay claims, but I have now said countless times that all these workers expect is to maintain their rights and real wages,” Flood said.
“The more he says it, the angrier these workers get.”
The union’s Deputy National President, Rupert Evans, told New Matilda that “playing down the impact of industrial action is employers’ tactic 101” and that the reality is “there are reports of significant delays”.
Evans said the union “know significant numbers of managers have been moved out of head office and put on the frontlines today to cover gaps created by strike action," but Customs and Immigration declined to comment on the contingency arrangements it put in place for "operational security reasons".
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