Union pressure is building against Premier Mike Rann's ALP government of South Australia. Treasurer Kevin Foley and Rann have been targeted in a campaign by trade unions against the recent state budget.
A number of rallies have been called since the budget was handed down. The largest so far, on October 14, estimated at 10,000 by the Public Service Association (PSA).
The following motion was passed: “This rally expresses no confidence in Treasurer Foley's budget measures, calls on members of the Legislative Council to carefully consider their actions in debating the bills which undermine workers’ rights, and the job and service cuts that will harm South Australian families; [and] vows to continue to protest against these draconian measures by way of community campaigning, industrial, legal and political means until they are reversed, including if necessary, up until the next state election.”
The previous day, a 500-strong rally was held outside parliament, deploring cuts to adult education in the budget.
Full-page adverts, headlined “You can't trust Mike Rann and Kevin Foley”, have been placed in the Advertiser by SA Unions, calling for support for a rally on October 26.
The budget cuts almost 4000 public service jobs and will affect long service leave and leave loading entitlements. Australian Council of Trade Union president Ged Kearney has accused Rann of using the tactics of former Coalition prime minister, John Howard.
“They're overriding an enterprise bargain agreement which was made in good faith with the workers of South Australia, the public sector workers, and the government”, she told ABC radio on October 13. “So they're going to actually change legislation to override that agreement. That … is absolutely extraordinary, that they would dishonour an enterprise bargain agreement that workers signed in good faith and they are going to use legislation to take away long service leave and remove holiday leave loading from those people.”
Kearney told the October 14 rally that unions across the country were monitoring the "vicious attack" being waged against workers in SA.
On October 5, SA Unions secretary, Janet Giles said, “Every job slashed is a kick in the guts and a financial burden for the worker involved and their family. But the flow through effect is just as bad, with increased workload on remaining workers and reduced services to the public.
“For those employees who do keep their job, the entitlements they've been counting on are being pulled out from under them. The government is breaking its commitment to more than 100,000 workers by subverting enterprise agreements under the state's industrial laws and legislating away their working rights.”
Key representatives from 10 unions with members in the state public sector have denounced the cuts and vowed to fight them.
Leaders from the state public service, nurses and midwives, education, police, ambulance, fire fighters, public transport, construction, health services and medicos unions have met with SA Unions to map out a strategic campaign against the cuts.
The meeting resolved to conduct a grassroots community campaign against cuts to public services, continue commitment to public actions, lobby parliamentarians and explore legal avenues.
Giles says the issue of industrial action is something to be considered by each individual union.
The Ambulance Employees Association, which has been especially targeted by the government, has already held at least one stop-work meeting, on October 8.
At least one Labor backbencher, Stephanie Key, has attacked the budget and the rallies have been assured by union leaders that other Labor MPs are not happy.
Rann has labelled the union campaign “the usual argy bargy”, while Foley called union leaders “dinosaurs”, the October 13 Australian reported.
Giles responded: “Rann and Foley have shown themselves to be the worst kind of political animals — the kind that give all politicians a bad name — by promising the world before an election and then recanting on their word once elected.
“But for all their political dishonesty the part that really hurts is the impact on workers and their families, and the impact on other South Australians. When you attack workers like ambulance officers, nurses, police, fire fighters, health professionals, teachers, scientists and engineers, you're not just hurting them and their families, you're also hurting the essential services to all people that this government has a duty to deliver.”