A total of 95 per cent of union members at the Department of Veterans' Affairs have voted in favour of industrial action which increases the pressure on the Abbott government in its stand off with the federal bureaucracy.
The ballot which could lead to disruption of work at the department dealing with military veterans and their families follows Prime Minister Tony Abbott's reinstatement of Australian Defence Force allowances on Monday. The ADF's latest pay and conditions arrangement was being looked at as a ceiling for the rest of the public service during negotiations.
Department of Veterans' Affairs staff were facing the prospect of a 1 per cent annual pay rise - well below inflation - and cuts to rights and conditions, the Community and Public Sector Union's national secretary Nadine Flood said.
Ms Flood said Veterans' Affairs was one of more than 80 Commonwealth agencies unable to make a deal because of the "inflexible and harsh" bargaining policy set up by the Prime Minister's spokesman on public service issues, Senator Eric Abetz.
"Eric Abetz is forcing agencies to strip conditions from workplace agreements and cut workplace rights in exchange for low-ball pay offers," she said.
"This result should be a wake-up call for Mr Abbott and Senator Eric Abetz – you can't treat your staff like this and get away with it. Isn't it time for Senator Abetz to admit he has got APS bargaining wrong and agree to talk to the CPSU about finding a sensible way forward.
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"The Prime Minister has declared that he has listened to the Defence community on ADF conditions, so it's high time that Minister Abetz listened to public servants. Pay is an issue but it is not the most important one. They are worried about their rights and conditions and they will not be bullied into submission."
Ms Flood said the government, not Veterans' Affairs clients, would be targeted during industrial action.
"Our members have made a commitment not to disrupt payments to veterans, widows and their families," she said.
About 15,000 Department of Human Services staff, who work in an organisation dealing with millions of Australians via Centrelink and Medicare, were also readying for industrial action after a similar 95 per cent vote in favour of action.