ACT unions launch campaign against Liberal government

Issue 

By Stuart Martin

CANBERRA — The ACT Trades and Labour Council has launched a campaign in defence of jobs, pay and work conditions against the ACT Liberal government. After a motion to the TLC from the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) and several months of stalled enterprise bargaining negotiations, public sector unions agreed to a united industrial campaign.

A public education campaign with the community has begun around the issues of job loss and reduction in working conditions. Unions are planning to back this up with industrial action. On June 17 the ACT government workers covered by the CPSU voted unanimously for a half-day work stoppage.

The CPSU has been negotiating with the government for 10 months, and has called frequent stop-works and a one-day strike.

In addition to attempting to reduce working conditions, the Liberals are proposing to reduce the superannuation entitlements for new employees and to change the workers' compensation laws to mirror those of Kennett's Victoria.

The federal and ACT Liberals want to reduce the amount of superannuation that the government pays its employees by 6%. Current workers will not be immediately affected but will be targeted during government restructuring because they will be seen as more expensive.

The changes to workers' compensation will restrict the ability of workers to sue negligent employers, abolish payments to workers injured while travelling to work and reduce long-term benefits.

The TLC has begun a campaign to build public support for the workers. The United Firefighters Union has already begun a public campaign and work bans in support of its wage claim.

A protest rally at the ACT Legislative Assembly is being planned, and more action will follow if the government does not commit to job security and a fair pay increase. Tim Gooden, ACT government section secretary of the CPSU, said, "The Carnell government has no credibility with the workers in the ACT. They have had enough of job cuts, threats of reduced conditions and privatisation by a government that would rather spend millions on a useless football field.

"The CPSU is not going to stand by and let this government destroy the public sector like Kennett and Howard have done. Carnell and her government are on the verge of collapse, and industrial action will give her the final push. If [conservative "independents"] Osborne and Rugendyke let Carnell and the Liberals off the hook, then they will have the well-earned loathing of ACT workers."