ACT government stalls on negotiations


By Sue Bull CANBERRA — Since February 23, when it was ordered to negotiate with unions over their 9% pay claim, the Carnell Liberal minority government has used every possible tactic to stall negotiations. Mediators unacceptable to the unions have been brought in, threats have been made to tow away buses blockading the Legislative Assembly for the goods and services picket, and the possibility has also been raised of bringing in police to charge Transport Workers Union members for "illegally" driving the buses there. "Citizens Against Union Thuggery", a group which appears to have direct links to the Liberal Party, has been to the picket line attempting to cause fights. Unions believe that Carnell is hoping to provoke a situation which will lead to a lock-out. One of the unions, the Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers of Australia, has signed a heads-of-agreement deal with the government for a minimum of 3.3% with productivity savings. Dubbed a "bosses" union, it has only 45 members in ACT government services and consists mainly of managers. All other unions have decided to escalate their bans, including setting up a "people picket" outside the Legislative Assembly; only those with a current union ticket will be allowed to enter. This could mean that no Liberal politicians will be able to enter. Meanwhile, in an attempt to head off the total privatisation of the Information Technology section of the ACT government, a further dispute is brewing. This comes at a time when the government's claims that it can't find the money to pay wage increases or save jobs have been debunked by the disclosure that it waived $10.8 million in stamp duty for the mining giant CRA.

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