The Australian economy is set for a significant slowdown in response to the COVID-19 shutdown, with the jobless rate expected to climb to 10%. The question, asks Graham Matthews, is who will pay?
More than 80,000 NSW public sector workers will lose basic entitlements such as annual leave loading, penalty rates and remote living allowances under new plans from Barry O'Farrell's Coalition government. Some sick leave and parental leave also face the axe. The latest attack comes after 15,000 jobs were cut, public-sector pay rises were capped below the inflation rate, and workers' compensation rights for sick and injured workers were stripped.
Thousands of Victorian nurses, mental health workers, public servants and others have been trying to negotiate new enterprise bargaining agreements with the Coalition government. Premier Ted Baillieu's intransigent state government has insisted it will not agree to any pay rises above 2.5% a year without productivity trade-offs. The exception was the police force, which won a 4.5% annual pay rise a few days after more than 500 police violently evicted Occupy Melbourne protesters from City Square.
More than 15,000 Community and Public Sector Union members from almost every Australian Public Service agency have voted on the CPSU's APS-wide bargaining claim. The final outcome was 14,665 (97.5%) in favour. The claim included an APS-wide pay rise of 4%, payable from July 1, 2011, and a further 4% payable from July 1, 2012. It also included additional measures to gradually increase pay in lower paid areas. There are currently large differences in pay between different agencies.
The campaign against savage cuts to public services in the recent South Australian budget is gaining momentum. More than 10,000 unionists rallied in Victoria Square on October 26 and marched through lunchtime crowds to Parliament House. Nurses, prison officers and firefighters are among the many sectors angry at the cuts, which will cost up to 4000 jobs and affect vital services. The following day, hundreds protested at Parliament House against cuts of $850,000 to the health budget, which threaten the viability of country hospitals at Keith, Moonta and Ardrossan.
The campaign against South Australian Labor treasurer Kevin Foley's latest budget is gathering strength. The second rally protesting against the wide-ranging budget cuts — particularly to the public sector — organised by SA Unions, attracted up to 10,000 people on 14 October. Members of the Legislative Assembly were invited to speak, including independents, the Liberal Party and Family First. The campaign has called on the Upper House MPs to block the legislation.