Public Service Strike To Hit Australian Airports, Medicare, Centrelink

21/03/2016 8:21 AM AEDT | Updated July 15, 2016 12:51

Thousands of public sector workers will walk off the job this week in a round of industrial action that is likely to disrupt the nation's airports and key Commonwealth agencies like Medicare, Centrelink and the Bureau of Meteorology.

The Commonwealth Public Sector Union (CPSU) said the action would kick off on Monday, with an all-day strike by staff at the nation's health, welfare and weather agencies as well as the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Bureau of Statistics.

The industrial action is expected to cause particular disruption at airports around the country, and passengers are being warned that delays are likely over the Easter weekend.

The strikes are the latest in what is a two-year dispute between the government and the union.

The rolling industrial action by Border Force is scheduled to start at airports on Tuesday and a 24-hour strike will also take place on Thursday joined by members of Immigration and Customs.

The CPSU said the strikes were aimed at showing the union's frustrations with government attacks on workers' pay and conditions during enterprise bargaining negotiations.

“Striking workers are targeting the politicians and bosses who continue to treat them with contempt, but these rolling strikes may have some impact on the public, particularly at international airports," CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood said.

"As with previous action at airports, we would advise passengers to contact their airline for information on whether they will be effected, and allow extra time when departing and arriving on international flights.”

The Australian Public Service Commission has labelled the industrial action as unfortunate, saying strikes usually do "little, if anything, to help resolve bargaining issues".

CPSU's Flood said the government wanted to remove family-friendly conditions in many agencies that allowed people to juggle work and parenting responsibilities.

She said Border Force officers faced cuts to their take-home pay, with workers in that agency in line to lose "a raft of rights in return for a two-year wage freeze".

Department of Human Services boss Hank Jongen said he was disappointed that the action would impact some of the "most vulnerable people in the community".

He said he didn't understand why the department's previous offers had been rejected.

"The offer that we've put to our staff is two percent per annum over three years," he told ABC television.

"That puts the offer above the rate of inflation. And, as I said, we believe it's affordable, it respects the rights of our staff."

However, he conceded the current offer would open the door to customer service staff being moved around various offices in one week of work and working split shifts.

"At its extreme you could argue (that)," he said.

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