Defence workers warn more strikes to come over unfair pay deal

The Department of Defence (DOD) has become the latest target of industrial action for refusing to agree to wage rises above inflation.

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) members in the DOD have warned the government that further industrial action will take place if the matter is not addressed – following union members in metropolitan and regional Australia staging a four-hour stoppage last week.

Union members are demanding heads of the Department return to negotiations on a new workplace agreement, otherwise the workers will strike.

AMWU TSA national secretary, Mike Nicolaides, said the government has been ‘stonewalling’ negotiations. 

“Nothing has changed from our position. Our members still see the offer of a real wage cut as unacceptable,” he said.

“The Department has not moved from their position of 9% over three years. If anything, they seem determined to continue down that path (offering wages that fail to meet predicted CPI increases). Well… it won’t fly with our members.”

The DOD reportedly made an offer in June to cover 22,000 civilian positions within the Department, however this was rejected by 72.5% of voters.

The Department is the latest in a stream of businesses being targeted by union workers for offering lower pay increases than the workers deen fair.

Workers at car-maker Toyota have been striking for five Fridays in a row now (in Sydney and Melbourne) over a pay dispute. 

Workers are demanding a 4% raise each year for three years, as suggested by the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU).

Toyota Australia has offered 11% over 39 months. It has also offered the option for a 7 per cent increase over 2 years plus a bonus. All offers have been rejected by the Unions involved.

The strikes are reportedly costing Toyota $10 million per day in production loss.

In the case of the Department of Defence, AMWU’s Nicolaides said a united campaign between members of the AMWU and other unions(including  the National Union of Workers, the Community and Public Sector Union and the Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia) has the support of the majority of the engineering and scientific workforce. 

“Three years ago during the GFC, workers in Defence were asked to accept an average of 3.1% a year for two years, which they reluctantly agreed to given the economic circumstances. Now the Department has offered even less. Our members wonder where the bottom is,” he said.

“We’ve calculated what it would cost the Department to agree to an acceptable wage increase and the difference from their offer is a small percentage of their overall wage budget. The Department probably spends more on biscuits.”

Workers are saying that there was a commitment from both the DOD and workers during the last round of negotiations that they would both suck up a little bit of the hurt during the GFC, so long as the workers were offered a wage increase in the next agreement.

Defence has reneged on that commitment. They now seem to be holding out for our members to cave in, but we will not. We believe we have grounds to maintain our position. We’re not asking for a huge increase,” said Peter Leggatt, an AMWU delegate and Radiographer based in Port Wakefield, South Australia.

Image: AMWU delegate Tracey Davis lead a rally in Melbourne last week.