Tense times as high stakes Immigration Department public service pay vote begins

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The for and against posters for the Department of Immigration EBA vote. Photo: SuppliedInternal tension was mounting at Border Force and the Immigration Department last week as its 13,500 public servants prepared for a high-stakes industrial ballot beginning Monday morning.
Nanjing Night Net

Union officials suggest the department’s vote-yes material has plagiarised the union’s vote-no posters, with bosses trying to hoodwink workers into supporting their proposed pay and conditions offer.

The department would not answer questions on whether its designers drew some inspiration from their Community and Public Sector Union counterparts.

Border Force and Immigration Department officials have already twice rejected enterprise agreements developed under the Coalition’s hardline public sector bargaining policy, most recently in March by a margin of 81 per cent.

Monday’s vote is a last-ditch attempt by the department to avoid the compulsory arbitration ordered this month by the Fair Work Commission.

If the department cannot convince a majority of its workers to accept its deal, the Fair Work Commission will take control of the dispute, a move that would be claimed as a big win by unions and take the three-year public service industrial rows into uncharted territory.

The vote will be closely watched at the Tax Office, the giant Department of Human Services and the Defence Department, where industrial disputes are still raging over the controversial bargaining policy.

Immigration would not answer questions from Fairfax media on the similarities between the “yes” and “no” campaign materials.

“The department’s focus is on ensuring that staff have access to factual information pertaining to the proposed enterprise agreement,” a spokesman said.

“The department is confident that staff will make their final decision after fully informing themselves on the offer and its key features.

“This includes pay rises between 6.4 to 10.7 per cent for the majority of the department’s workforce, rights to consultation and preservation of conditions.”

Immigration bosses will be encouraged by a ballot result last week at the 2500-strong Environment Department, where a deal was voted up by a margin of 54 to 46 per cent, the latest in a string of very close results.

The government’s workplace authority, the Public Service Commission, had to come to the defence of the bargaining policy on Friday, after insisting that it was “intact” in response to bosses at the ABC agreeing a deal in open defiance of the Coalition’s rules.

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash and Communications Minister Mitch Fifield appear powerless to stop the ABC agreement going ahead after a 71 per cent vote to accept the deal at the broadcaster.

Both the ministers have written to the ABC Chairman Jim Spigelman protesting about the $500 sign-on bonus, increase in maternity leave from 14 weeks to 16 weeks and the introduction of domestic violence leave at the ABC.

Mr Spigelman reportedly replied to the ministers telling them they had no power to dictate industrial terms and conditions to the ABC, which operates independently from government.

Public Service Commissioner John Lloyd says the ABC’s snub of the policy does not set a precedent for any other organisation.

The Commissioner says 69 agreements offered under the bargaining framework have now been voted up in the Australian Public Service and the broader public sector.

But nearly two-thirds of federal public servants, nearly 98,000 of a workforce of about 150,000, remain without an agreement to replace the deals that expired in 2014.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.