National

Border Force officials plan Easter airport shut-down

Easter Holiday plans for hundreds of thousands of air passengers could be affected as Australian Border Force and other Immigration Department officials threaten to walk off the job at airports and freight terminals around the country on Easter Thursday.

The official uniform worn on a Border Force vessel.
The official uniform worn on a Border Force vessel. Photo: Supplied

The 24-hour strike, part of a continuing dispute over wages and conditions, will be preceded by strikes by public servants at the Tax Office, Medicare, Centrelink, the Child Support Agency and the Bureau of Meteorology.

Bureaucrats at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Bureau of Statistics are also planning to join in the 24-hour strike on Monday, March 21, in what will be the most comprehensive industrial action seen so far in the dispute.

The Community and Public Sector Union, representing the Border Force officials and other public servants, says the action could escalate further with a three week campaign of rolling airport strikes over the Easter school holidays being considered.

The strikes, and the early announcement nearly three weeks out from the planned actions, are designed to pressure Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to move to end the wage dispute between the government and much of its 152,000-strong public service.

Border Force workers joined the majority of their Immigration Department colleagues in September to reject the latest pay offer by a margin of 91 per cent to 9 per cent.

The CPSU has also been campaigning in marginal Coalition seats around the country in a bid to bring pressure on the government over the disputes, which have been rumbling on since 2014.

Work stoppages were held by ABF and Immigration staff in September at airports in Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Darwin, Cairns, and the Gold Coast.

There were reports of significant delays at Sydney, Perth and Cairns airports as managers from the department were rushed into uniform and into frontline roles in what was dubbed a "surge deployment".

More actions in November resulted in airport operators calling for the parties to settle their differences.

The union wants Mr Turnbull and his ministers to make changes to the tough public service bargaining policy put in place by former prime minister Tony Abbott and his employment minister, Eric Abetz, with departments saying they can only make offers that conform with the guidelines.

CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood said the scale of the actions planned for late March showed the depth of feeling within the public service.

"The scale of these strikes shows just how frustrated the mums and dads working across the Commonwealth public sector are," the union leader said.

"They've suffered two years of an attacks on their rights, yet the government's flawed bargaining policy is still forcing agencies to cut essential rights and conditions now and move other rights out of agreements so they can be unilaterally scrapped down the track."

Ms Flood said the union was open to more dialogue and that it was not too late to avoid the industrial action.

"Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has nearly three weeks to avoid this action, but we reckon it could be resolved in three days if they're willing to talk genuinely with us about fixing this mess," she said.

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