Anger spreads: Australian Taxation Office moves toward industrial action

Staff at Australia's tax collection agency are moving toward industrial action which could hurt the Abbott government at a time when the federal budget needs all the revenue it can get. 

Employment Minister Eric Abetz.
Employment Minister Eric Abetz.  Photo: Photo: Andrew Meares

Following feedback from delegates and members in the Tax Office, the Community and Public Sector Union has decided to apply for a protected action ballot to be held in late April. 

It appears likely the ATO will follow the largest departments in the public service, those of Human Services and Veterans Affairs, into industrial action following bargaining offers employees were unhappy with.

Tax Office
Tax Office Photo: Louie Douvis

The coming months also may see unionised staff at the Defence Department take action after its offer caused outrage among employees on Thursday.  

The new agreement for 20,696 ATO employees offered a 0.8 per cent per-year pay rise.


After the loss of allowance, a typical ATO public servant in the middle band of an APS 6 classification will get a pre-tax pay rise of about $7 a week.

The agreement stripped conditions and rights, with ATO workers required to work an extra 9 minutes a day and losing a $300 annual health and wellbeing allowance.

Community and Public Sector Union national secretary Nadine Flood.
Community and Public Sector Union national secretary Nadine Flood. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

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Community and Public Sector Union national secretary Nadine Flood said industrial action was always a last resort and that the workload in the Tax Office was piling up. 

"(ATO) workers know how vital the work they do is to the economy, it's a crying shame that this government doesn't value them to the same degree," Ms Flood said.

"Tax workers have seen 3000 of their colleagues – or one in eight - lose their jobs in the past with a further 1700 jobs slated to go in the next two years."

"Over the course of almost a year of bargaining negotiations every proposal that we have seen seeks to take far more away than it gives." 

At the end of last year the CPSU surveyed 100 ATO staff, mostly working in compliance, and found that 75 per cent felt the Tax Office budget cuts had affected the agency's capacity to monitor and audit companies at risk of tax avoidance.

Bargaining for 165,000 Commonwealth public servants has been under way since April. Agreements in 117 agencies expired on June 30, 2014.


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