Immigration Department Missed Security Targets, Blames Public Service Strikes


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The Immigration Department has failed to meet inspection targets for cargo at international airports and seaports, blaming industrial action by public servants.

The department used its latest annual report to criticise strike action by Community and Public Sector Union members as potentially undermining security; a claim rejected by the union.

The report was tabled on Monday, just weeks after Australian Public Service Commissioner John Lloyd described the latest strikes as “a flop” with low participation rates and minor disruptions.

The APSC claimed less than four per cent of Immigration and Border Force staff took part in strike action during August with minimal impact on services.

Immigration officers and some quarantine and biosecurity staff walked off the job intermittently during 2016 in a bid to break a two-year deadlock on pay and entitlements.

The strikes caused lengthy delays at international airports across Australia and were criticised by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull shortly after terror attacks in Brussels.

The annual report claimed the strikes “had the potential to undermine the department’s work to maintain border integrity” with risk avoided by the “re-allocation of resources from support areas”.

CPSU secretary Nadine Flood said the government had been caught “walking on both sides of the street”.

“We’ve just had the Department of Immigration and Border Protection arguing in the Fair Work Commission that the CPSU’s strike action is so significant and well-supported it needs to be suspended,” she said.

“At the same time the Public Service Commissioner says the strikes are a flop, desperate to shore up the government’s nasty 50 per cent plus one agreement vote strategy.”

Close to 80 per cent of Immigration and Border Force staff rejected a revised government offer in March. The dispute may continue until 2018 with the Fair Work Commission opting to end strike action last week, forcing compulsory arbitration.

More than 70,000 items of contraband were detected by Australian Border Force and officers during 2015-16.

The department recorded a $21.7 million deficit in 2015-16 attributed to changes in government bond rates and a $22.3 million increase to labour costs and provisions.

“If not for this adjustment the Department would have finished the year on budget, which is an outstanding result given the operational pressures facing the organisation throughout the year,” department secretary Michael Pezzullo said.

Close to $2.5 million was spent on termination benefits for senior executive staff during 2015-16, which was an increase on $480,488 a year earlier. More than $9 million was spent on separations and redundancies across the entire department.

The department’s total workforce grew by 634 positions to 14,241. The SES ranks grew by 21 positions with 10 positions accepted by women.

On Monday, the APSC also released figures to claim a majority of government workers were satisfied with pay and conditions.

The commission claimed staff who signed enterprise agreements during the last two years had “much more positive perceptions” of their workplace.

Those who have accepted revised deals were 14 per cent more likely to be satisfied with remuneration at 69 per cent. They were 9 per cent more likely to be satisfied with conditions.

Online Source: Canberra Times

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