The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has stepped up campaigning efforts in support of funding and jobs as the nation grapples with the ongoing response to the coronavirus crisis.
CPSU National Secretary Melissa Donnelly issued a strong defence of the public sector workforce, paying tribute to the role played by federal employees – including CSIRO staff – in the face of pandemic.
“The public sector has delivered for the community through this crisis, whether it is the ATO helping small business keep their doors open and their employees paid. Or Services Australia staff talking to the throngs of people queuing outside every Centrelink office in the country.
“This key work is one of the reasons why it is so astonishing that public sectors jobs continue to be cut by this government. While CSIRO scientists work overtime to try and prepare a vaccine in this pandemic, they are watching their colleagues lose their jobs,” Ms Donnelly said, referring to recent job cuts in the Energy business unit.
CSIRO cuts highlighted
Writing in the Canberra Times, Ms Donnelly argues that ongoing support of public services would be critical in rebuilding the economy and supporting communities amid increasing unemployment.
“We need urgent job growth to hold our economy up and we need to be focusing on areas that will support our social and economic rebuild for the long term…. as history has shown us, the public sector is going to be key to doing this successfully. The private sector will come back more quickly if there is stronger, better resourced public service there to facilitate that reconstruction.”
However recent high-profile cuts to CSIRO, ABC and cultural institutions threatened to undermine these efforts.
“We have all seen the exceptional work of the CSIRO during the pandemic, but the government has cut 619 jobs over the last year alone. In fact, since the election of the Coalition government in 2013 CSIRO staff numbers have been cut by 18 per cent.
“The most recent cuts are to the CSIRO energy team, including key scientists, engineers, and researchers. At a time when business is looking to the government for leadership and certainty over the future of our energy needs, they are more concerned with cutting jobs,” Ms Donnelly said.
Proud to be Public
CPSU has started to ramp up the defence of public sector jobs by asking union delegates and active CPSU members to help inform the next steps of the Proud to be Public campaign.
Citing the summer bushfires and ongoing coronavirus emergency, the campaign appeal highlights the “critical role of public services, from Services Australia and the ATO administering payments and support to CSIRO working around the clock to find a vaccine. From NDIA supporting people with disability, to BoM and the ABC ensuring communities have the information they need in a crisis.”
“Right now, we have an opportunity – community support for the public service is at an all-time high and we are at a critical point as a nation in how we rebuild from crisis.”
Over coming months, CPSU activists and delegates will be encouraged to convene online meetings to start the campaign process that will include an initial survey, encouragement of colleagues to join the union, conversations with family and friends on the importance of essential public services and activities aimed at taking that message directly to federal political representatives.
Respect our Labour
Meanwhile, CPSU has targeted the growth of outsourced employment in the public sector with a new project called Respect our Labour.
“Respect our Labour is an initiative of CPSU, to improve the working conditions and rights of labour hire employees in the public sector… we know labour hire workers are doing their best to deliver the services they are being asked to.”
“But it is not fair that they should be paid less, on short-term contracts with little job security, and work under weaker conditions than if they were employed in the public sector.”
The campaign aims to achieve:
The campaign website features extensive resources aimed at supporting labour-hire employees in the workplace as well as news and online tools to stay connected and take action.