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Union votes to step up industrial campaign against government

The public sector union has voted to step up its dispute with the Abbott government, threatening industrial action against tough bargaining positions across the Commonwealth system.

Community and Public Sector Union leaders met at a governing council meeting in Melbourne today, voting to endorse the “use of protected industrial action that is consistent with the provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009, mobilising workers and commencing preparations to allow members to take protected industrial action that is required to protect their rights”.

The union says action could include work bans, stoppages, strikes and a “range of other campaign activities”.

CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood says industrial action is a “last resort” and the union would prefer to resolve issues at the bargaining table. But she said in a statement:

“This government is refusing to sit down with us to try and find a sensible outcome. Instead it has chosen to attack public servants and the CPSU.

“The government is targeting important rights that public sector workers have built up over decades including superannuation, fair wages and decent conditions. Today we say no. We will not accept cuts to the rights and conditions of 165,000 public sector workers.

“We are asking 165,000 government workers to come together to protect their jobs, their rights, their conditions and their future.”

Flood says of the 70 agencies bargaining new agreements none have presented an acceptable position.

She says Employment Minister Eric Abetz is “refusing to meet” the union. Abetz’s spokesperson told The Mandarin today: “We don’t believe it to be appropriate to provide a running commentary in relation to specific bargaining negotiations.”

In a column for Fairfax earlier this month, Abetz rejected suggestions the government was attempting to strip away rights. He says the government’s position “simply aims for less complex enterprise agreements that do not repeat rights and conditions and responsibilities already provided for in legislation or elsewhere”:

“Entitlements conferred by laws, such as the Fair Work Act or workplace health and safety legislation, apply to employees regardless of whether they are repeated in an enterprise agreement.

“The CPSU claims that the government wants to cut public servants’ superannuation, when the government’s contribution rate is set by the trust deed – a legislative instrument subject to scrutiny by the Parliament.

“Duplicative content, recently inserted into enterprise agreements, purporting to set a certain superannuation contribution rate cannot legally constrain the rate contained in public service superannuation law.

“Yet the CPSU continues to misrepresent the reality and ignore the government’s stated position that the rate will not change.”

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The Mandarin

The Mandarin staff journalists.