"Let's have this fight because we're going to win it": CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood. Photo: Mark Graham
The head of the nation’s biggest public service union has delivered a rousing call to arms to tens of thousands of government workers by questioning Tony Abbott’s mandate to cut the bureaucracy.
The battle cry comes as separate global figures show the nation is far from being weighed down by a bloated public service when compared to 32 other OECD countries - in fact Australia has the most average-sized bureaucracy on the list.
Community and Public Sector Union secretary Nadine Flood said public servants were scared about their jobs and futures in the face a looming federal budget which was likely to say ‘‘your jobs don’t matter, you can afford to be cut so much more’’.
‘‘The government needs to start dealing with workplace relations like it’s 2014, not 1974,’’ she said in Canberra on Friday, referring to the government’s delayed negotiations.
‘‘I wasn’t aware (at the last election) the government came out and said we are seeking to cut the real wages, rights, jobs and working conditions of ordinary Australians.’’
After asking more than 200 members and delegates, ‘‘Are we going to stand by and let this government do whatever the hell they want?’’ she said the union was going to ‘‘have a smart fight, a clever fight and a fight we can win’’.
‘‘Our job is to go out and talk to tens of thousands of workers, ask for their support, ask them to back the CPSU and let’s have this fight because we’re going to win it.’’
The union’s governing council voted to step up the organisation’s campaign, to build greater support among public servants and for workers to stand in solidarity with staff at other agencies via protected action ballots if required.
The government’s policy offers no pay rises for departmental staffers unless their bosses can prove they have extracted productivity gains, and there is pressure on public service chiefs to crack down on sick leave.
Public Service Minister Eric Abetz accused unions of endangering thousands of jobs with a pay claim of 12 per cent over three years.
Ms Flood and others have noted the starting point for the Coalition’s national commission of audit was an assumption the bloated public service needed pruning.
But latest available OECD figures show 15.7 per cent of Australia’s workforce are public servants, compared to the OECD average of 15.5 per cent.
Australia has less civil servants than 14 other OECD nations, such as Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Australia has a greater proportion of public servants than 18 others, including the United States, Mexico, Chile, the Slovak Republic, Czech Republic and Poland.
The figures from the 2013 Government at a Glance publication include Australia’s federal, state and territory bureaucracies and were counted in 2011, before efficiency dividends started trimming federal job numbers.
Opposition assistant Treasurer and Fraser MP Andrew Leigh said the numbers busted the Liberal Party’s myth about a bloated public service.
‘‘About one in six Australians work for the public service, which is average for the developed world,’’ Mr Leigh said.
“Claims by the Abbott Government that the public service is bloated are based on ideology, not evidence.’’
‘‘Australians have the right to scrutinise the Commission of Audit report, rather than have it kept secret.”
With 13 per cent of Australian government workers employed by the Commonwealth, it meant most bureaucrats were employed by state or territory governments.