By Garry Walters and Peter Boyle
MELBOURNE — Premier Joan Kirner's plan to axe 10,000 permanent and 2500 temporary public service jobs — confirmed in her June 19 "share the pain" economic statement — may provoke industrial action.
Kirner also announced the privatisation of the State Insurance Office and $400 million worth of public assets. The Portland aluminium smelter and state pine plantations are already on the market, and big business will be offered control of the state's most modern power station, currently under construction.
State charges were raised, and gaming machines are to be introduced to raise an estimated $90 million yearly. Traffic fines will go up 20%.
The job cuts are causing the greatest anger. Kirner predicts that unemployment will reach 11.1% in Victoria in the next 12 months and still be 10% a year later. Nevertheless, she is intent on abolishing jobs, not creating them.
Victorian Trades Hall Council industrial officer Trish Caswell says there is broad support for industrial action against job cuts.
In recent elections for the leadership of the Victorian Public Service Association, a militant team swept to victory on a pledge to defend public service jobs. Teacher unions say the planned $100 million cut in education spending would devastate an already struggling state education system.
On June 20 some 100 shop stewards from public transport unions decided to lodge a claim on the Public Transport Commission for an "across the board increase of 10% over and above the $12 in line with Accord Mark VI ..."
The delegates specified that "no jobs were to be traded for increased wages under any circumstances". They vowed to take industrial action if public transport services were further weakened.
While transport minister Peter Spyker has promised that the proposed 20% cuts to public transport will not reduce the quality or quantity of service, the finance ministry has already dusted off a job and service hit list drawn up by PTC's managers under the previous Liberal government. One of their ideas was to cut all evening and weekend train and tram services!
Last year the public transport budget was reduced from $612 million to $550 million. Of the 1200 jobs cut in 1990-91, quite a few
affected services and essential staffing. With the tramways understaffed by 400, 15% of scheduled peak hour services are presently not running.
The railways union argues that attacking public transport directly violates government promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
ARU assistant secretary Russell O'Brien says all the easy options for increasing productivity in public transport have been exhausted. Since 1983-84, state Labor governments have slashed public transport spending by 38%, trashing between 20,000 and 30,000 jobs.