NSW public servants debate pay deal

November 29, 2008

A fierce controversy has broken out in the NSW Public Service Association (PSA) over the union's recent pay award. The dispute occurs as the union's 43,000 members receive voting papers for seven executive members and 45 central councillors.

Union general secretary John Cahill, under challenge from the Progressive PSA, has accused his opponents of spreading misinformation about the 4% pay deal, claiming that the PPSA's criticisms are just electioneering.

Under dispute are "improvement initiatives" (that is, trade-offs) outlined in the memorandum of understanding signed by the union leadership as part of the pay deal. These include trade-offs relating to sick leave, family and flex leave, and motor vehicle allowance rates.

PPSA supporters and delegates were the first to question the agreement. PSA vice-president and PPSA candidate for assistant secretary Paul Petersen has pointed out that Cahill accepted the deal without putting it to a membership vote and without authorisation by the union's central council.

The elections are being conducted under new rules introduced secretly by the incumbents earlier this year that jettison the proportional representation system in favour of winner takes all. Under the former system, the PPSA had won a vice-president and 12 central councillor positions.

The PPSA has pledged to restore union democracy, including putting the rule changes to a ballot, allowing members to accept or reject awards, and bringing the union officials under membership control, as well as to defend jobs and oppose privatisation.

The two ruling factions of the union, Rank and File (Labor Left) and Members First (Labor Right), have united to oppose the PPSA. Voting ends on December 5.

[Steve O'Brien is a PSA delegate and a PPSA candidate for central councillor.]

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