‘Blatant, Artificial and Contrived’

The Commissioner of Taxation, Michael D’Ascenso, has boasted that he is in line to be given a $295,000 pay rise. This is on top of a 3% rise he gets automatically each year and would take his salary to over $800,000.[Canberra Times – : ‘Tax chief ‘boasts’ $295,000 wage rise‘ and Tax Commissioner to get massive pay increase and Union outcry as top public servants win $300K pay rises ]

At the same time the ATO is having a losing streak in the High Court in attempts to prevent tax avoidance, to stop profits being shifted offshore and in making corporate Australia pay any tax at all. The tax schemes of the 70s and 80s have come back with such a vengeance ATO lawyers can’t win a trick in the courts.

But you will not hear anything about this at the National Tax Forum  that is going on in Canberra today and tomorrow.

Meanwhile at the lower end tax office workers are collecting $150 billion p a for government revenue from PAYE tax payers, ordinary workers like themselves. This is what keeps Australia going – social services, medicare,  roads, hospitals, schools – all the infrastructure needed to operate a first world economy.

Yet ordinary workers at the ATO are prohibited from going on strike for a a wage increase in their current EBA because their executive level offciers have previously struck a deal in their EBA with management.

Most ordinary ATO clerks would be on less than one sixth of the ATO Commissioner’s pay rise… they work in call centres, revenue processing areas, debt collection, and so on.

Unions in the ATO say the Fair Work Act outlaws strike action
This week the Community and Public Sector Union gave the following advice to its ATO members:

Industrial Action – why not?

Protected industrial action is not available to us. This is hugely frustrating.

The Fair Work Act in summary provides that any employees who will be covered by an Agreement being negotiated, can only take protected industrial action if none of them are currently covered by an Agreement. In the case of the ATO, the EL2 Agreement does not expire until next financial year. So no NON-SES employees can take protected industrial action.

Industrial action includes strikes but also includes doing your work in a different way from normal. So overtime bans, work-to-rule, work bans, go-slows, strikes and stop-work meetings are all industrial action and would not be protected. This means those participating would face individual sanctions under common law, as would the CPSU if we organised or encouraged it.

At the meetings the CPSU is asking members to indicate what they would like their CPSU negotiating team to do at this stage.

Attendance at meetings have been poor. In one building in Brisbane CBD CPSU organisers were able to muster only 7 out of 400 tax officers to decide where to now that managment’s offer has been rejected by staff.

These are the choices the union gave those seven union members who turned up:

1. Accept whats on offer from the ATO now subject to finalising 2 lump sum payments of about $800. [Author’s note – these lump sums are a con because they are one off and not indexed for inflation which is on the rise]

2. Reject whats on offer and stick with the CPSU claim for 4% +4% +5% – keep negotiating.

3. Reject whats on offer and look for some other way to get the best equivalent of the CPSU claim. This option may include a combination of: lump sum payments, further base pay increase, increment adjustments, increase in salary for superannuation purposes. Note that this option is likely to prove difficult to achieve but allows CPSU negotiators to try to find another (admittedly less attractive) way to put more money in your pockets.

4. I am not yet a member but would like to join and my chosen option is…..

Based on poor attendance figures at EBA meetings, it does not look as if union members think their participation in the union meetings makes any difference to their pay or work conditions.And this at a time when many are afraid of losing their jobs.

And if union members were to go on strike? Members would be too scared to take strike action for a 5% wage increase especially with the penalties that would be dealt out by Fair Work Commission.

All this is happening at a time when individual workers are under attack from management.

Why are unions so mired in the three year cycle of EBA negotiations that focus solely on 3%, 4%, 5% wage battles?
Union organisers and delegates should be saying to members:

“Look we have several union members under attack from management in the workplace and lets get behind those union members, muscle up against management and show our support for fellow workers being harassed by management . Lets make this the focal point of our EBA campaign here today!”

Ian Curr
4 Oct 2011

Blatant, Artificial and Contrived
by Trevor Boucher (former Tax Commissioner 1984 – 1993) whose wage was less than 1/6th than the current ATO Commissioner, D’Ascenso.  Boucher oversaw the end of the ‘bottom-of-the-harbour’ tax schemes of the 1970s & 1980s. Bottom of the harbour was when 976 Victorian companies (and many more Australia-wide) stripped company dividends to avoid tax. The companies were then dissolved, hence the name.

One thought on “‘Blatant, Artificial and Contrived’

  1. 'Workers avoid face-to-face meetings, they have gone online' — CPSU says:

    Hello union members,

    I wrote to both the CPSU and the ASU about my concerns about the latest EBA in the Australian Taxation Office.

    According to the CPSU, workers attend “meetings held ‘online’ via electronic polls”.

    The union says they have been “experiencing declining numbers of members attending lunchtime meetings for some time…”

    “Members who are not turning up to meetings are solidly behind rejecting the current offer and pursuing a real wage increase.”

    “They are doing so in much larger numbers than have been attending ‘in face’ meetings for the last 10 years” and, “the other Tax union is once again cutting and running off to try and stitch up another sub-standard deal.”

    In other words, workers have gone online and avoid collective bargaining.

    According to the CPSU ‘the other union’ is a bunch of scabs, so much for union solidarity.

    And anyone who argues for a direct challenge to management is out of touch by ten years.

    Ian Curr
    3 October 2011

    See ‘Focus on wages misguided when industrial democracy is under attack’


    ‘Blatant, Artificial and Contrived’

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