DHS and Australia’s largest union vote — what happens now?


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Staff at the Department of Human Services have the green light to vote on whether to take industrial action and what form it might take. The Mandarin explains the scenarios.

The almost 15,000 Department of Human Services staff members who belong to the Community and Public Sector Union now have until November 17 to vote on whether to take industrial action.

The Fair Work Commission gave the go-ahead to the protected action ballot in a hearing yesterday, opening a 25-working-day window to complete the process. Whatever the results, a majority of DHS members must take part in the vote for them to be valid.

Only union members can vote or take part in protected industrial action, and only actions that get a “yes” from the majority are allowed. The nine yes-or-no questions ask if CPSU members want to protest through bans or limitations on adhering to dress standards, answering phones, responding to voicemails or emails or working outside normal hours. Subsequent questions float options for bans or restrictions on other kinds of work, and members might also agree to take breaks earlier or later than scheduled.

Other actions could include members reading a statement from the CPSU to clients or customers, or providing one in written letters, emails, auto-reply messages or voicemails — allowing the union to take its message to the public via communication systems managed by service providers like Medicare or Centrelink.

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