Releasing the Mid Year Financial Report in February, Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings said savings required over the next three years would be the equivalent of 2300 jobs. She said she couldn’t rule out forced redundancies in the public service or cuts to frontline services.
On May 26, Giddings released a statement to parliament that said: “We have now lost a total of around $1.5 billion in expected GST revenue and state taxes.”
She announced measures to make the public service “more productive and more efficient” and to reduce the costs of the public service.
Giddings promised an amendment to the State Service Act “to enable more active management of both performance and underperformance of state service employees … The amendments will also provide a proper authority for the termination of those employees who, after support is given, are still unable to perform their duties effectively.”
She also promised to amend the act so workers can be enticed to resign after three months of being kept on the redeployment list or be sacked after sixmonths of waiting for redeployment (it is now 12 months).
Current “vacancy management” procedures, which many regard as shrinking the public services by stealth (through not replacing people when they resign from their jobs, and encouraging leave-without pay and reduced hours), will continue.
In an email to members that day, Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) general secretary Tom Lynch said: “The Premier’s … statement confirms the government intends to proceed with legislative changes to fast-track the sacking of potentially thousands of public sector workers.
“On behalf of the Greens, their leader Nick McKim confirmed they would be supporting these changes … Make no mistake, every public sector worker was put on notice today that post-budget they could be declared surplus to requirements and then sacked after just six months.”
A day after the announcement, Giddings confirmed that state MPs would receive a 4.2% pay rise in July, despite suggesting earlier in the year that she would freeze MPs salaries due to the tight economic situation.
She has also come under attack for saying the $40,000 pay rise granted to new Labor MP Craig Farrell was a “miniscule amount of money”.
The May 25 Mercury said that the pay rise takes his package, including electoral, car and resource allowances, to more than $186,000.
The CPSU has been running television ads warning that the plan would worsen the economy.
It commissioned a report into the social and economic impacts of the plan from Professor William Mitchell and Dr. Beth Cook of the University of Newcastle’s Centre of Full Employment and Equity.
The report, released on May 10, found that the cuts to public sector jobs will raise unemployment and slow economic activity. Total flow-on job losses could be up to 4800.
It also said the cuts are likely to result in a decline in standards of service delivery and “remaining staff are likely to have higher workloads and higher stress levels”.
Sections of the business community have also spoken against the plan.
Dixie Emmerton, managing director of the Centre for Tasmanian Industry said on May 19: “The Tasmanian economy is already very fragile, and the likelihood of large scale redundancies in the public sector will have the effect of suppressing business activity across a wide range of sectors.
“We need to remember that our public servants invest in our economy too, by buying homes, cars, food, and other commodities.”
The CPSU said that in pre-election letters it received in February 2010, Labor and the Greens had pledged to not introduce forced redundancies of public sector workers.
Giddings wrote: “Labor has given a rock-solid guarantee... that there will be no forced redundancies under this State Labor Government.”
Greens leader Nick McKim wrote: “The Greens also commit to no forced redundancies in the next term of government.”
The Greens are in a coalition with the Labor party and hold two ministry positions.
In a May 18 email to CPSU members, Lynch said: “Despite claims by the premier that everything will be done to avoid job losses we are beginning to hear disturbing stories from a number of agencies about people who are being told the program or service they are involved in delivering will cease soon and they may be declared surplus to requirements.
“We have also had a worrying spate of members who have suddenly had performance or disciplinary issues raised with them, issues that could lead to them being terminated.”
The CPSU and Health and Community Services Union have called a rally outside state parliament at 2:30pm on June 16, the day the budget will be announced.
Public sector workers have been warned that they will have their pay docked for attending the rally unless they seek permission to use flex time or other leave in advance.