Tax office staff stage walkout

Tax office staff across Australia walked off the job for two hours today in a dispute over rostering and weekend work, which is expected to cause lengthy telephone queues and delay the processing of tax returns.

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) said protests would be staged outside Australian Taxation Offices (ATOs) in each state during the stoppage, which took place from 0700 AEST to 1030 AEST today.

A spokeswoman for the ATO said the two-hour walkout was not expected to have a big impact on operations.

According to Shane O'Connell, the CPSU's tax division secretary, most of the tax office's 18,000 staff were expected to take part in the stop-work.

O'Connell said the walkout would disrupt ATO services all day.

"We advise not to bother ringing the ATO because they'll be caught in long queues," he said.

"It will hold up all the work at the ATO and put things behind by a day."

He said the "overflow" of call centre queries could be resolved by ATO staff returning calls during normal work hours.

O'Connell said the working hours issue had derailed negotiations for a new enterprise agreement.

"People resent being forced to choose between their job and their family," O'Connell said.

"Many are reassessing their career with the ATO because of the threat of compulsory rostering."

O'Connell said more industrial action could be staged if the ATO's management continued to push compulsory rostering.

O'Connell said the tax office wanted to replace the current flexitime arrangements with a compulsory roster system that would force some specialists to remain at work until 6pm to handle complex queries from call centres.

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