Centrelink and Medicare are to be hit with a fresh wave of strikes next week with thousands of public servants working at the agencies set to walk off the job.
The rolling stoppages will hit the giant Department of Human Services which also runs the Child Support Agency and administers veterans payments, on Monday, December 5, and again the following Friday and then again on Monday, December 12 and Friday, December 16.
The bitter dispute between the department and its workers over conditions and pay is now into its fourth year with no end in sight and the new wave of strike action target DHS’s troubled call centres, back-office operations and face-to-face services at shop-fronts around Australia.
Public service authorities have been dismissive of strike efforts at DHS recently with only about 5000 of the department’s 36,000 public servants taking part in the last day of action, in September.
But opposition to the government’s tough public sector industrial relations policy remains strong in the department with the latest proposal offered under the policy smashed in a recent all-staff ballot, the third rejection, by a 74 per cent majority.
Human Services, which has repeatedly played down the impact of industrial action during the dispute, did not respond before deadline on Monday to requests for comment.
In the broader public service, nearly 100,000 public servants remain without enterprise agreements to replace deals that expired in mid-2013.
High stakes ballots are looming at the Australian Taxation Office and the giant Defence Department.
Community and Public Sector Union National Secretary Nadine Flood said her members at DHS were acting out of frustration.
“Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support staff are frustrated and worried by the Turnbull Government’s mean and illogical public sector bargaining policy,” she said.
“These working mums and dads are asking us if they can go on strike again to bring some attention to this unfair situation, as they face their third Christmas without a pay rise.”
“DHS staff work every day to help ordinary Australians but they’ve been doing it pretty tough themselves for three long years as the Government’s frozen their pay while trying to strip essential rights, such as the family-friendly conditions that allow a call-centre worker to balance shift work with raising a family.”
Ms Flood noted that DHS workers had been hardest hit by the marathon industrial dispute, with their pay effectively frozen since mid-2013.
“These workers are among the lowest paid in the Commonwealth public sector, and stand to lose the most under the Government’s policy,” Ms flood said.
“They want to go on strike, even though they can’t really afford to but they are absolutely desperate for government to do something.
“It really underlines how nasty this bargaining mess is.”
Online Source: The Sydney Morning Herald.