'Save our services' Labor Council politely requests

Wednesday, August 21, 1991

By Bruce Marlowe

SYDNEY — In its 1991-92 budget, brought down last month, the Greiner government took aim at 12,500 jobs in the public service. Now that the lists of victims are going up on departmental noticeboards, the New South Wales Labor Council has decided to — well ... you know — do something.

Not too much, mind. When the Labor Council last called a protest against Greiner (the 1989 "Day of Outrage"), there was quite a large turnout. And, what must have been worrying for the gents on the podium, a lot of the crowd correctly abused Wran, Unsworth and Hawke Labor for starting the whole rot of privatisation, corporatisation and defunding of the public sector.

This time, facing much deeper cuts than in 1989, the pussycats of Sussex Street have decided to play very safe indeed. The march to "Save Our Services" won't be going through the centre of Sydney; instead, it will cover the full 300 metres from Hyde Park to Parliament House.

Then there has been the "publicity". Only a little over a week before the day set for services to be saved did a very thin trickle of stickers and leaflets appeared and public sector workers learn that they will be "going out" for a couple of hours on August 21.

What will it all achieve? Nothing, if all goes according to plan. One 300-metre stroll followed by an hour or so of Labor leader Bob Carr's painfully phoney ranting about "this uncompassionate and doctrinaire government" isn't designed to trouble Greiner for a moment.

Its main aim will be to boost Labor's electoral odds if the party's appeals against the results in two close seats in the May election are upheld.

Meanwhile Greiner's cuts machine runs smoothly on. The latest targets include 1000 in the State Transport Authority, 600 in the Department of Community Services and 400 in Technical and Further Education.

Familiar techniques are being applied. Those who get in early for voluntary redundancy will, in the words of a Roads and Traffic Authority circular, "qualify for an extra amount of up to eight weeks severance pay, depending on length of service".

This carrot will be made available in addition to the standard two weeks for every year of service. This last provision applies to all save the blessed souls in the Special Executive Service: for them,

the pain of redundancy will be softened with 12 months' severance pay — $110,000 at least.

However, not everything to do with the cuts is squalid farce. Workers in the community services sector have decided to put some backbone into the Labor Council's limp August 21 protest. At 11 a.m., one hour before official proceedings begin, they will gather in Belmore Park to march through Sydney to Hyde Park.

Here, at least, is a real chance for the rising anger against Greiner to be expressed, putting some life into the charade.

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