Tidbinbilla strike over APS payrise limits applied to NASA-funded positions

By Stephen Easton

Wednesday November 22, 2017

A group of CSIRO staff who run the iconic Tidbinbilla space tracking dishes near Canberra will stop work for one hour this afternoon, arguing federal government payrise limits should not apply to their NASA-funded jobs.

About 70 CSIRO employees at the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, represented by the Electrical Trades Union, Professionals Australia and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, will down tools at 2.20pm.

Their aim is “delaying the handover of communications responsibilities from the Goldstone deep space complex in California” in order to send a message to the United States, where all of the money to pay their wages comes from, according to a statement.

The unions say the CSIRO, which operates the centre, is trying to “forcibly implement” the policy that limits what Commonwealth agencies can offer in enterprise bargaining. ETU organiser Mick Koppie argues this is part of an “ideological war against the public service” and that the APS enterprise bargaining policy should not apply because Australian tax dollars are not in question.

“Today’s industrial action has not been taken lightly, but workers feel that delaying the scheduled handover of communications from California is the only way the leadership at NASA will be made fully aware of the mismanagement of this vital facility that is taking place at the behest of the Australian Government,” said Koppie.

The negotiations have gone on for nine months and are entirely the CSIRO’s responsibility, but it appears the unions hope the Americans holding the purse strings might have a quiet word to somebody. Koppie threatens an escalation in the industrial action that will have more impact on the US space program if the stand-off continues.

Enterprise bargaining has been extremely slow under the stricter policy introduced by the Coalition government, but most agencies eventually got new agreements over the line. Department of Human Services employees finally accepted a new EBA in September, after more than three years of negotiations and industrial action.

Elsewhere, staff of the Federal Court, Family Court, Federal Circuit Courts and the National Native Title Tribunal have been on strike recently, as have Bureau of Meteorology workers.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has been in a Fair Work Commission arbitration process for just over a year, after it failed to reach a new agreement with its staff.

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