Cheeky hidden message in weather report
STAFF at the Bureau of Meteorology have been banned from doing some live radio crosses and can no longer post to official social media accounts without supervision after union members used weather forecasts to broadcast details of a pay dispute.
To coincide with the industrial action which commenced on Wednesday, Twitter messages on the BoM's Victorian, South Australian and West Australian accounts included the hashtags "#BOMonSTRIKE" and "#5yearpayfreeze", along with a link to a petition to support the 1600 workers.
Some weather forecasters used their live radio crosses to read out a statement informing the public of the long-running dispute, and a message was even cleverly hidden in a text-based satellite weather report.
According to the Community and Public Sector Union, BoM management responded by attempting to "gag" staff, stopping radio crosses in some areas and imposing "additional quality control".
The changes will require additional checks before forecasts are transmitted and an administrator must review all social media posts before they are sent. The CSPU described the moves as a "heavy-handed response" and an "extraordinary over-reaction".
"The public deserve to know why the hardworking employees of the Bureau - the people who bring them vital weather information every day - have been forced to endure a wage freeze for nearly five years, simply because they refuse to sacrifice working conditions," CPSU deputy secretary Beth Vincent-Pietsch said in a statement.
"Our members do this work because they know it is a valuable community service, but five years without a pay rise while their cost of living continues to climb is hurting them and their families.
"After three votes that overwhelmingly rejected management's substandard offers and a refusal by management to take part in a conciliation process through the Fair Work Commission, our members have been left with no choice but to seek public support to resolve this protracted industrial dispute."
Ms Vincent-Pietsch said the previous workplace agreement covering BOM staff expired in June 2014 and the union had been locked in a stalemate ever since, with the Bureau "refusing to move on key conditions that other agencies have restored".
The latest offer was voted down by 60 per cent of members in December. BOM staff have taken part in rolling strikes since November, with further action in February and March, The Canberra Times reported.
"After four years of negotiations, we have managed to claw back much that was under attack," Ms Vincent-Pietsch said.
"BoM's refusal to offer a fair deal to their workforce makes it one of a very small number of Commonwealth agencies that have not been able to successfully negotiate a new enterprise agreement.
"Rather than sit down and talk about how this increasingly bitter dispute can be resolved, management have instead gone to the extraordinary lengths of attempting to gag employees from taking part in lawful industrial action.
"This is further evidence that Australia's workplace laws are broken and that the rules need to be changed.
"We need a system that brings management and employees together to deliver fair and just outcomes, rather than the current situation where the Bureau has used a wage freeze to try to force employees to sacrifice important conditions."
A spokesman for the BOM said it respected the rights of union members to take protected industrial action but had a "responsibility to ensure that its products and services, including its forecasts and warnings, are not compromised".
"The Bureau is putting various measures in place to meet that responsibility and to maintain the standard of its products and services," he said.
"The Bureau of Meteorology has put to its staff a new Enterprise Agreement for consideration, ahead of a formal vote commencing on June 22.
"The proposed agreement provides a substantially front-loaded pay increase, protects core conditions, is financially sustainable and complies with the Government's Workplace Bargaining Policy.
"It enables the Bureau to continue to provide the critical services we provide to the Australian community in an affordable, sustainable way. The proposed new Enterprise Agreement follows ongoing negotiation in good faith with staff and unions."