National

Rebellion over Finance Department offer crushed: Staff vote up enterprise agreement offer

Forty thousand public servants are set to mark the turning point in negotiations across the public service over enterprise agreements.

Bureaucrats at the Australian Taxation Office and Defence Department, each with 20,000 employees, will soon be polled on their level of support for the latest offers on pay and conditions for the next three years.

The federal government and its softened bargaining policy has started to rack up victories against the union movement.

Finance Department staff became the latest to vote 'yes' to their offer last week despite union advice to vote 'no'.

Community and Public Sector national secretary Nadine Flood said the 58 per cent vote in favour of the Finance offer after 18 months of negotiations was "underwhelming" at a conservative agency that had never voted down an agreement.

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It comes after Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade staff voted 'yes' to a similar offer less than two weeks ago.

"A few 'yes' votes in areas carefully selected by the government doesn't change reality, with more than 92 per cent of Australian public service workers still without a new agreement," Ms Flood said.

"We are confident major agencies including the Department of Human Services, Immigration and Border Protection, the ATO, Employment and Environment will vote no in upcoming ballots, helping secure more significant changes including the retention of important rights and conditions."

"We believe all APS workers deserve a far better deal than what has been offered so far.

"Our members know that once their rights and conditions are gone, they won't be coming back."

The CPSU appeared to be preparing members to vote 'no' to Defence's new offer, which floated a 2 per cent annual pay rise and kept a number of conditions the old one would have scrapped.

Ms Flood questioned if it was even a legitimate offer.

"Secretary Dennis Richardson's communication to staff is just a few cherry picked potential improvements, not an actual offer that staff will ever vote on," she said.

"As with all enterprise agreements the devil is in the detail, and Defence is still negotiating on the basis of a fundamentally unfair government bargaining policy.

"There's a deafening silence on the consultation rights that ultimately ensure the department considers the human impact of its decisions on the people that work there.

"The 6 per cent pay offer that's now on the table also absolutely doesn't put Defence staff on an equal footing with the Australian Defence Force, because of the ongoing departmental pay freeze that's now stretched for 18 months."

Professionals Australia ACT director David Smith said the Defence offer, while a vast improvement, did not compensate staff for unconscionable delays.

His union was finalising its position but he said feedback from workplace delegates had so far been hostile.

"It's still well short of the mark," Mr Smith said.

Meanwhile, the CPSU and Australian Services Union were readying troops to vote 'no' at the ATO where the ballot opened Thursday on the basis the 6 per cent pay rise over three years did not compensate for increased working hours and cuts to allowances.

The ASU's tax spokesman Jeff Lapidos said: "[The pay rise] should be funded by the ATO increasing its productivity and effectiveness, not by across the board cuts in your rights at work and your working conditions."

The CPSU is polling members at Australian Hearing about it enterprise agreement offer while IP Australia staff will vote in a ballot that closed Thursday.

Again the CPSU advised staff to vote against the offer.

"At recent all staff meetings [at IP Australia] run by CPSU, members and staff told us overwhelmingly that this offer still wasn't good enough and that members want IP Australia to do better," a union statement to members said.

"This offer is almost identical to the offer staff rejected by a margin of 3:1 in September."

The union said some of the cuts proposed at IP Australia so far included consultation being stripped from the agreement, 23 non-examination jobs cut to offset salary increases despite what the union described as the agency's "strong financial position".

There were also the removal of staff representative rights, the union said.

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