Centrelink and Medicare Staff Strike for Better Rights
Endless lines, frustrated and/or frail customers, verbal threats and inherent defensiveness are all in a day’s work for many of the workers at Centrelink and Medicare offices around Australia.
But now, the Department of Human Services staff are collectively taking their rights into their own hands, choosing to strike on Monday 18th May 2015 over changes to work conditions.
In an interview with radio station 3AW, the national secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), Nadine Flood, explains that the strike relates to a new collective bargaining agreement that has “stripped half of the workers’ rights out of existing agreements”.
“These staff are proud of the work they do. They don’t want to disrupt the community but they’re facing a pretty vicious attack on their rights and conditions,” she says.
While the Federal Government did announce an increase in funds towards the department, Flood says the proposed agreement leaves most workers in a worse position “for a pay off of less than 1 per cent”.
Earlier in May the CPSU said it was facing the “fight of our lives” following recent changes made by the Federal government, and Flood has said more departments will follow in Centrelink and Medicare’s footsteps in the next few weeks.
“Public sector workers don’t take industrial action lightly but they have been pushed to this point by a belligerent government that has cut 17,300 jobs and is now intent on attacking the living standards, pay and conditions of 160,000 public servants,” she says in a media statement.
“The deals this Government are offering across the public service are so draconian no one could accept them. Workers are being asked to cop a massive cut to rights and conditions, in return for low annual pay offers of between 0% and 1% a year that leave real wages going backwards.”
Staff walked off the job at 11:30am and were expected to return to work an hour later, giving customers notice to expect delays during lunchtime (and potentially into the afternoon).