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Cash rejects Times‘ tale of lost DV leave, strikes loom

Michaelia Cash featured in the Canberra Times

Federal Employment Minister Michaelia Cash has hit back at a media report that the Australian Public Service Commission has ordered existing domestic violence leave entitlements be “stripped”. She describes the story in The Canberra Times on Wednesday as “not only factually wrong, it is highly reckless and offensive”.

Cash writes in a response on the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet website:

“The commission has issued no such ‘order’ or any other instruction of this kind.

“Public Servants will retain the ability to take leave where this is necessary in relation to an instance of domestic violence. This includes both entitlements under existing enterprise agreements that allow for leave to be taken, plus any entitlements under separate policies that apply to particular departments or agencies.”

Cash insists that no public service agency has proposed any new agreement that would remove the ability for workers to access leave following an incident of domestic violence.

Increasing pressure for parents, part-timers

Community and Public Sector Union members took to Canberra’s Parliament House last week in an attempt to end the stalemate on new wage agreements that have now been in negotiation for about two years. CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood said this wasn’t a dispute about pay.

“We’re not far apart on money, this is a dispute about the rights and conditions people have and the pressures on them after two years of a wage freeze,” she said.

In addition to simplifying the leave entitlement categories, some agencies’ proposed agreements have also upped the length of the working day. Although less than an hour of additional productivity would be generated over the course of a month, one part-time federal employee who took part in the CPSU visit to Parliament House explained why this has a disproportionate impact on part-time and casual workers like her who balance family commitments. The Mandarin agreed to not identify her.

“There’s pressure [on part time employees] to work the full day, three days a week … and they’re pushing for three-month agreements, instead of 12 months — and that affects things like childcare and school,” said the employee.

Her young daughter doesn’t have access to before-school care, so the earliest time she can be dropped off is 8.30am. “By the time I do drop-off, I try to get there right on 8.30 so I can get through the traffic to work by 9.15. I’m already losing a little bit of flex because of it.” Without her parents being able to pick up her daughter after school, she’d lose even more flex time.

“It’s important to be able to spend time with your child, especially at the end of the day when they’re getting tired,” she said.

The lack of flexibility in the proposed agreements makes it difficult to remain working for the department, she says. But like her colleagues who came to Canberra to lobby with the CPSU last week, she’s prepared to fight and strike until an equitable deal is achieved.

Strike action planned in March

  • APS wide strike on March 21: 24-hour strike action by eligible members in a range of APS agencies including AAT, ABS, ATO, BoM, Defence , DHS, DPS, Education, Environment, GeoScience, IP Australia, PM&C and Synchrotron.
  • DIBP & DAWR strike on March 24: 24-hour strike on Easter Thursday by members in Immigration, Border Protection and Agriculture including at international airports.
  • Rolling airport stoppages: DIBP members including Border Force members will undertake several weeks of extended rolling stoppages, with action commencing after the APS strike on March 21 at international airports.

Author Bio

Harley Dennett

Harley Dennett is editor at The Mandarin based in Canberra. He's held communications roles in the New South Wales public sector and Defence, and been a staff reporter for newspapers in Sydney and Washington DC.