Nationwide trade union protests across Australia March 4 – ‘Time to stand up against the abolition of the minimum wage’–CPSU

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JOIN the national protests around the country on Wednesday 4 March 2015, urges Australia’s Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU).

The CPSU warns: ‘It’s not just public services that are currently under attack by the Abbott Government, our rights at work are under threat too.

‘It’s clear the recently announced Productivity Commission into Workplace Relations is designed to cut penalty rates (i.e. overtime, weekend working and public holiday rates), abolish the minimum wage, bring back unfair individual contracts and give more power to the employers. Time to stand up!

‘Join thousands of concerned workmates, friends and families at a national rally on Wednesday, 4 March. Most rallies will be held at lunchtime.

‘What the rallies are about:

‘There is growing community concern about the Abbott Government’s attacks on: public services, ABC/SBS, Medicare, CSIRO, real wages, conditions and our rights at work, higher education, pensions and superannuation, unemployment benefits, community services that support our most vulnerable.

‘Put Wednesday, 4 March, in your diary and start encouraging your friends, family, neighbours and co-workers to join in. . . because the bigger the crowd, the stronger the message we send.

‘Australian Unions are organising the 4 March rallies. Extra times and locations will be confirmed in coming days. If your nearest city isn’t on the list, you can register your interest in attending now and the ACTU will send you updates.’

The CPSU announded on Saturday: ‘Workers in the Australian Tax Office are moving a step closer to taking industrial action, as discontent over the Abbott Government’s industrial relations agenda deepens across the public service.

‘Following feedback from delegates and members in Tax, the Community and Public Sector Union has decided to apply for a protected action ballot to be held in late April.

‘The move follows the offer of a new agreement from the ATO that strips conditions and rights, and cuts jobs – in return for longer working hours and a below-inflation pay rise.

‘Tax is set to join a growing number of colleagues across the public service protesting against new agreements that slash their conditions and rights in return for annual pay offers of between 0% and 1% a year.

‘Last week workers in Human Services and Veterans’ Affairs took action, while Defence workers were hit with a proposed deal that would cut their pay and conditions.’

Community and Public Sector Union National Secretary Nadine Flood said on Saturday: ‘Industrial action is always a last resort and members don’t take this step lightly but they are deeply concerned with this Government’s attack on their pay, conditions and rights.

‘Last week Tax workers were told they would have to cop a new agreement that demands they work an extra five days a year, remove critical workplace rights and conditions – in return for a 0.8% pay deal that would see them go backwards.’

Flood added: ‘It’s a toxic combination that public servants increasingly are coming to expect from Senator Eric Abetz’s unworkable bargaining rules.

‘Over the course of almost a year of bargaining negotiations every proposal that we have seen seeks to take far more away than it gives.

‘Meanwhile the work in Tax piles up. Workers know how vital the work they do is to the economy, it’s a crying shame that this government doesn’t value them to the same degree.’

Tax workers have seen 3,000 of their colleagues – or one in eight – lose their jobs in the past with a further 1700 jobs slated to go in the next two years.

Bargaining for 165,000 Commonwealth public servants has been under way since April. Agreements in 117 agencies expired on 30 June 2014.

Meanwhile, Australian Bureau of Statistics staff are calling for increased funding and end to job cuts in order to enable workers to deal with any overhaul to the Census.

In anticipation of a decision by government on the future of the Census, the Community and Public Sector Union said that funds were urgently need to upgrade computer systems and ensure that staffing levels could meet the ongoing demand for its services.

CPSU President Alistair Waters said: ‘It is vital that government and the ABS protects the reputation of what is a vital public service and national institution.

‘The ABS performs a crucial role in underpinning so much of what we need to know about Australia to provide good public services and it is too important to be allowed to decline.

‘That is why government must ensure the ABS can do its job and do it to the best of its ability. uccessive budget cuts and efficiency dividends have already taken their toll with one in ten staff positions axed and almost $80 million taken from its budget over the past two years.

‘This has led to a significant loss of skills and experience and various programs such as Measures of Australia’s Progress and Australian Social Trends being discontinued. This cannot be allowed to go on.’

Staff continue to raise the issues of mounting workloads and an antiquated computer system with management, Waters said.

He warned: ‘Staff constantly deal with change and embrace it but they can only do so much.

‘At this critical juncture we once again call upon the government to properly fund the ABS so that it can continue to provide first class statistics and information to government and other stakeholders. Without good data, government can’t make good decisions.’

ABS has 2528 full time equivalent staff.

Meanwhile, employers are trying to cut the wages of hospitality, retail, pharmacy, dry cleaning and laundry workers says the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).

ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver said employer groups have lodged submissions with the Fair Work Commission to cut penalty rates paid to workers in these industries under the review of modern awards currently underway.

‘Hospitality, retail, pharmacy, dry cleaning and laundry workers are some of the lowest paid workers in the country who rely on penalty rates as part of their take home pay,’ said Oliver.

‘These workers sacrifice their weekends away from family and friends, they work late nights and early mornings, and they should be paid for that.’

Oliver said a sudden pay cut will leave many workers struggling to pay their bills.

He said: ‘Penalty rates are not spare cash people splash around – they are part of take home wages that hard working Australians rely on to pay their rent or mortgage and put food on the table.

‘If you cut people’s wages, they have less money to spend in shops, in pharmacies, in restaurants – the very businesses that are driving this attack.’

Oliver added that cutting penalty rates has nothing to do with job creation or productivity, it is about attacking people’s pay packets.

He stressed: ‘There is no evidence linking productivity or employment levels with penalty rates, a finding confirmed by the Fair Work Commission.

‘The business community justifies its push to get rid of penalty rates by saying they are making it unaffordable to hire workers but this is simply not true.

‘The share of business income going to wages in several key sectors has fallen in recent years, while the Fair Work Commission itself found no evidence to show that cutting penalty rates leads to employers hiring more staff.’

Oliver said unions will fight the move by employers to cut penalty rates and lower wages in the Fair Work Commission.