Australia's airports and freight system is set to be thrown into chaos next month, with thousands of staff from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to walk off the job for 24 hours over an ongoing industrial dispute.
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has announced its workers will strike from 12.01am to 11.59pm on November 9, the latest escalation in industrial action as the union locks horns with the government over pay, allowances and conditions for those watching over Australia's borders.
It is believed the department will force "back office" staff into more front line roles such as checking passports and inspecting freight deliveries. The 24 hour strike is an escalation of the shorter strikes the union effected in September, where air travel was seriously affected over 10 days.
The department managed to cover the roles of striking workers at the time, albeit with extensive delays to passengers, but it is unclear whether such a long strike will be able to be covered as easily.
"Under these circumstances, we have taken the difficult decision to issue ‘no work no pay’ notices to employees in Australia," the Department of Immigration announced in a statement.
"Whilst the notices are addressed to all employees, they primarily affect a number of work areas where the work bans proposed have an unacceptable impact on work procedures and outcomes."
The September strikes were only for two hours at a time, at one airport at a time. The planned strikes will affect every international airport in the country at the same time, for 24 hours.
"We have made the decision to restart significant industrial action, given that discussions with Government have not produced any meaningful move on cuts to these workers' rights, conditions and take-home pay," CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said.
"We expect Border Force to continue their expensive and heavy-handed tactic of flying managers around the country to act as strike breakers, but it's clear that many of them know that this divisive tactic is doing nothing to resolve this dispute."
Flood said the industrial agreement put forward by the department would see "many staff" suffer pay cuts in the thousands of dollars and extensive cuts in entitlements and rights.
She said 91 percent of Border Protection staff voted no to the agreement. The union is pushing for a pay rise of at least 2.5 percent.
"We've made it clear all year - both at the negotiating table and beyond - that the broader dispute across the public sector can be resolved if the Government moves to maintain rights, conditions and take-home pay with a reasonable pay offer. We are open to making minor, sensible changes to agreements, but wholesale stripping of rights like work and family protections just isn't going to fly," Flood said.
"I'm willing to get on a plane anywhere, any time to sit down with Government and resolve this dispute."