On March 15, more than 1000 public sector workers and their supporters rallied in the city under the banner of "Job cuts = service cuts". They were expressing opposition to the 20,000 "backroom" job cuts proposed by the NSW Liberals as part of its state election campaign. The election will be held on March 24.
The rally, organised by the Public Service Association of NSW, was addressed by PSA general secretary John Cahill, who pointed out, to laughter from the crowd, that since there are only 18,000 genuine backroom jobs in the 300,000-strong NSW public service, the opposition would first have to create 2000 more such jobs to then achieve its proposed cuts.
Cahill said that while the PSA is not affiliated to any political party and public servants work for the government of the day, "there comes a time when doing nothing is a political act". After outlining PSA-adopted principles — including protecting the state's industrial relations system and preventing it from being handed over to the federal government, maintaining public sector job levels in real terms, and avoiding forced redundancies — he introduced Labor Premier Morris Iemma and invited him to publicly pledge to the principles.
Iemma emphasised public servants' important role in daily life, stating that "being a public servant should be a badge of honour, not a term of abuse", but did not address his government's shortcomings in delivering and safeguarding public housing, health, workers' compensation, education or any other public services.
Iemma used the rally to apologise to the public transport users who were stranded the previous evening when railway infrastructure failures caused trains to stop, trapping 3000 passengers inside. His criticisms of the Liberals' inadequate transport policy were not very convincing in light of that debacle.
While the rally was shaped from the platform as a "Vote Labor" event, the attendance of a large number of public servants prepared to publicly protest against attacks on jobs, working conditions and public services, will put significant pressure on a re-elected state Labor government to refrain from launching attacks on the public sector..