The Guardian 10 August, 2005

It's court for Centrelink

One of the federal agencies carrying the ball for the federal government's industrial relations agenda faces court action for discriminating against a union delegate. The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has filed Federal Court papers against Centrelink, alleging it blocked a $1000-wage increase for Adelaide call centre staffer, Paul Willson, because he defended a workmate and forwarded an "all-staff" email to the union for advice.

Centrelink ticked off on Willson's work performance but rejected a salary advance after its local manager claimed his actions on behalf of workmates, lacked integrity.

CPSU spokesperson, Paul Ingwersen, said the agency's attempt to determine what a delegate could and couldn't do was "worrying".

"Paul provides information, advice and support to workmates who ask", Mr Ingwersen said. "He does it in his own time because he cares.

"Union delegates, like volunteer fire fighters, lifesavers and charity workers should be celebrated, not penalised. Paul has worked there for five years and his work record is beyond reproach but management won't pay his increase because of his union activity.

"Centrelink's action gives us an insight into what all workplaces will be like under the government's hard-line industrial laws."

The action against Willson came as Centrelink joined the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations in forcing new starters onto AWAs.

Centrelink has been holding out on a new enterprise bargaining agreement for months, while using AWAs to strip conditions that are part of its agreement with the CPSU.

Last month, for the first time, Centrelink advertised positions on the basis of staff having to sign AWAs.

The aggressive use of secret, individual contracts comes as the Prime Minister and Workplace Relations Minister continue to insist, publicly, that they are a matter of choice.

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