NSW public servants launch industrial campaign

June 17, 1998


NSW public servants launch industrial campaign

By Jenny Long

SYDNEY — NSW public servants gathered in 108 clubs around the state on June 12 for stop-work meetings linked by Sky Channel to vote on recommendations for an industrial campaign for a pay rise. The official union recommendations, including a July 10 strike and work bans, were strongly supported.

In mid-May the Carr Labor government reneged on a promise to pay NSW public servants 4% of their 1997 16% pay rise, due in two 2% instalments, on July 1 last year and January 1. The raise was to be funded by "productivity gains" (i.e. cuts to jobs and services). The director-general of the public employment office, Col Gellatly, announced the decision, claiming the productivity increases delivered haven't been enough.

Public Service Association (PSA) members and other NSW public servants — who have been working longer hours and with fewer colleagues — know better.

Many were happy at the announcement that Sydney would host the 2000 Olympics some years back, but feel differently today. The NSW government would rather channel money into the Olympic "black hole" than pay a promised pay rise.

In the June 2 "family first" state budget, the government announced an extra $617 million in spending on the Olympics, bringing the total estimated cost to over $6 billion, of which the nett cost to the state will be at least $1.65 billion.

In the same budget, the government announced that it was cutting another 800 jobs out of the railways, on top of a 24% cut over the last three years. Spending on public transport took a $122 million cut, despite a projected $77 million to be spent on the 800 redundancies. While Labor talks about its extra $303 million for health services, there is no extra money to reduce the public hospital waiting lists of 51,000 people in NSW.

A combination of continual restructuring, budget cuts and enterprise bargaining has cost the NSW public service 90,000 jobs since 1991. Rather than benefitting, however, the public faces the possibility of privatisation of rail, electricity, education and water services.

Last year, when the pay deal was discussed by the PSA membership, the rank-and-file Progressive PSA warned of the dangers of accepting a pay rise based on finding savings, which threaten jobs, working conditions and services. PPSA members on the union's central council, which decided on the recommendations put to the stop-work meetings, pushed for a motion reaffirming PSA policy: full Treasury funding of pay rises and no productivity bargaining; government funding of established positions; against the squeezing of public sector employment as a result of individual agency management of staffing budgets; and support for a fairer income tax system and no GST. This was supported at the stop-work meetings, along with the industrial campaign.

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