Staff of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection can now see the end of their protracted enterprise bargaining process — which has dragged on for three years.
On Friday, the Fair Work Commission called a halt to industrial action by DIBP officers at airports around the country at the department’s request, for a second time this year.
At a hearing in Melbourne on Wednesday afternoon, the union successfully argued the FWC should “terminate” the bargaining process and agree to arbitrate a new enterprise agreement, which both parties will have to accept.
“This is good news for Immigration and Border Protection staff because there is finally a light at the end of the bargaining tunnel,” said CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood.
The government team argued the FWC should decline to arbitrate, and extend the interim suspension order it granted on Friday until November, so the department could put an agreement to a staff vote for a third time.
Flood hopes the ruling expedites a similar end to bargaining processes in other agencies that employ around 100,000 staff and have also failed to broker new agreements.
“We’re back in Fair Work next week with the broader Commonwealth dispute to argue that the Minister [responsible for the APS, Michaelia Cash] or a representative with the authority to act should participate in good faith bargaining to fix this mess.”
In a brief statement on Friday, the department said: “The decision to seek assistance from the Fair Work Commission to secure a suspension of PIA [protected industrial action] was taken today after much deliberation. This decision was not taken lightly.”
The CPSU had warned the government it would be seeking arbitration if the airport staff were prevented from striking a second time. Flood vowed on September 14: “If the government tries again to have our industrial action suspended by the Fair Work Commission, we will argue it’s time to terminate this bargaining charade and have the independent umpire arbitrate an outcome.”
The union confirmed on Friday afternoon it would be gunning for exactly that and said appealing to the industrial umpire was plan B:
“Arbitration was never our preferred outcome but in the absence of the Government negotiating a fair and reasonable EA, and after three years of trying, at least arbitration will finally provide a resolution for DIBP workers.”