Unions pledge to fight privatisation threat

May 30, 2009

About 350,000 Queensland workers plan to fight Labor Premier Anna Bligh's plans for massive privatisations. Unions have warned of widespread industrial action, including strikes.

On May 27, 35 unions announced they will oppose attempts to sell-off state government assets. The Qld government has flagged the privatisation of the Queensland Investment Corporation, power utilities Energex and Ergon, the Port of Brisbane, Queensland Rail and government-owned toll roads among others.

The government will announce its full privatisation plans in the state budget on June 16.

Queensland Council of Unions secretary Ron Monaghan told the May 28 Courier Mail that union members will decide what actions are taken in a series of meetings.

"In every example of privatisation, even the ones that have been a success, there had been a detriment to the public. There has been an increase in prices, there has been pressure to have less people employed and there has been lower standards", Monaghan said.

Electrical Trades Union (ETU) state secretary Peter Simpson said the membership was angry about the threat of privatisation.

"The biggest problem I've had is keeping guys in the workplace, I've had guys wanting to walk off the job everywhere," Simpson told Green Left Weekly.

"The ETU is appalled by the privatisation proposals. We have a fundamental problem with selling off public assets. There has been absolutely no consultation with the unions over these plans. We have only found out about this whole proposal through the media."

He said that the ETU had held workplace meetings all over the state. The union members are determined to fight the privatisation push by the state government.

ETU members struck over the issue at a number of government-owned corporations along the east coast of Queensland on May 25.

"When the government sold off the retail sector in the electricity industry a few years ago, jobs were lost all over the place," Simpson said. "ALP members in the branches are also totally opposed.

"We are going to stand up to the Queensland government over this, just like they did in NSW over the privatisation of the power industry.

He said electricity prices have already jumped significantly since the privatisation of Queensland's retail electricity market.

"This is what happens all the time with privatisation. The community is spun a line about the virtues of private ownership and competition, most of which never eventuates", Simpson said.

Australian Services Union state secretary David Smith told AAP on May 25 that ASU members will also campaign hard against any proposal to privatise government-owned corporations.

"The state government should hold its nerve and not respond to conservative economic pressures to balance the books at the expense of the state's long-term interests," he said.

"The state needs to maintain ownership of these key electricity and transport assets," Smith said.

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