Finance and Public Service Minister Katy Gallagher says the main union representing public servants is responding to “pockets of their membership” by knocking back a pay deal a majority voted to accept.
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) will take strike action on Monday, 9 October, to emphasise its rejection of the Federal Government’s offer of an APS-wide wage increase of 11.2 per cent over three years.
This is despite the union’s membership voting 51.9 per cent in favour of accepting the offer, which the government increased from its original offer of 10.5 per cent over three years.
The union is chasing a 20 per cent hike over the same period.
A 24-hour strike will now occur on 9 October by union members working for Services Australia.
CPSU national secretary Melissa Donnelly said the membership vote was not decisive enough.
“The CPSU has rejected this offer because we know that we can, and we should, be aiming higher than 50 per cent plus one,” Ms Donnelly said.
“There is strong support for the conditions package that has been negotiated, including the industry-leading working-from-home rights, increases to paid parental leave, the reintroduction of job security provisions and increased casual loading rates.
“But in an environment where every APS worker is feeling extreme cost of living pressures, the current pay offer doesn’t cut it.”
Speaking on ABC radio, Senator Gallagher suggested the union was under pressure from a minority inside its membership.
“I guess it’s a matter for them … they’re responding to pockets of their membership, I imagine,” the minister said.
“I can’t control that. I was hopeful that with the majority vote – and I’m not pretending it wasn’t a slim majority – that we could have proceeded to put this and finalise this agreement. But that’s not the case.
“Now we need to work through whatever happens next. I will be certainly urging the CPSU, in particular, to outline what is the pathway forward because, at the moment, we had the bargaining team meet yesterday, it was, as I understand it, a very short meeting.
“But at this point in time, other than having some industrial action in Services Australia, there isn’t a clear path forward about how we are going to resolve it, and we need to resolve it so that people can get their pay and access improved conditions.”
The minister said she acknowledged the role unions play and remained hopeful an agreement could be reached as soon as possible.
However, allowing a minority to overrule the view of the majority was a matter for the union to explain.
She said public servants were eager to get their pay rises.
“I think from … the government’s point of view, we have revised our pay offer after feedback from the union; we have worked really hard to improve the conditions and their substantial improvement to conditions in this package,” Senator Gallagher said.
“And the pay offer we’ve got on is more than double the pay offers that were given in the previous decade.
“I feel like we have come to the table and put a good package on it, and I’m hopeful that we can reach agreement as soon as possible.
“I would also say we cannot, you know, recover, I guess, an entire decade of failure to engage from the previous government.
“But you know, this is the affordable and reasonable offer that we can provide at this point in time.
“There’s some really … low paid workers that we’re trying to fix up in terms of pay parity in this agreement, you know, where they could get up to around 20 per cent through this deal.
“And I don’t want to see them wait any longer to get some of the fairness that they deserve.”
Beyond the Services Australia strike, the CPSU plans to lodge further applications for protected stop-work action in other Australian Public Service workplaces.
Original Article published by Chris Johnson on Riotact.