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Issue #1487      2  February 2011

WA govt makes insulting offer

On September 30, 2010, the leadership of the Community and Public Sector Union/Civil Service Association forwarded the wages claim General Agreement 5 on behalf of members to the WA Barnett government for their consideration so that genuine consultation and agreement could occur.

However, as Christmas and New Year came and went, many union delegates and fellow members realised that the unnecessarily long delay in responding to the claim was a signal that the government was not going to negotiate in good faith.

The government delivered their response to the unions claim based on a 10% increase over 12 months, by offering a 9% increase over three years and rebuffed the union outright on all other aspects of the claim and would not enter into further discussions for the remainder.

Branch secretary Toni Walkington did not need much time to respond to such a mediocre offer and replied the same day describing their minimal wage adjustments offer as, “inadequate”. Ms Walkington added that, the three year offer of 2.75% in the first year, followed by 3% and 3.25% in the third year was not consistent with the “Department of Treasury and Finance’s Economic Forecasts 2010-2011 mid year revision for the Wage Price Index of 4.25% with forward estimates of 4.25% for 2011-12 and 4.5% for 2012-13.”

Many public servants had also been doing it tough since the government of Liberal premier Colin Barnett had come into office in September 2008, with efficiency dividends, general downsizing and ongoing privatisation by stealth. In the unions view, concluded Ms Walkington, “Our members have made significant contributions to improved efficiencies and effectiveness through changes to work practices…and this despite job cuts and reduction in facilities and tools necessary to undertake their work.”

The stage is now set for a determined campaign to convince the government to recognise the value and worth of their public sector workers and reward them appropriately.

As was seen in the campaigns of other unions with workers in the public sector, the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union, the Prison Officers, Train Drivers, Nurses and Teachers, nothing significant was able to be won without determined and sustained industrial action including public rallies and snap strikes which in the case of the train drivers involved more than half the metropolitan drivers on two occasions causing massive disruptions to train services. These campaigns were also successful because the unions engaged in community awareness campaigns based on telling the truth about the effects of privatisation and contracting out of services.

Now it is the turn of the states public servants who provide a large number of important and valued services to the community to step to the fore to defend the hard fought conditions of the past and ensure that the public service of the future continues to be a valued and respected profession.

In addition to the government pushing for trade offs in order to secure anything above their first offer there are also the proposals from the Amendola Review into the Industrial Relations Act to gut awards and limit the conditions which can be negotiated in an industrial agreement.

Delegates who have spoken with their members have reported widespread and deep dissatisfaction and anger with the government’s offer which they view as an insult and contemptible.

A meeting of all CPSU/CSA delegates has been called for 3rd February 2011, and followed by a mass meeting of members on 3rd March 2011 at 12.30pm – details of the venue to be announced shortly.  

Next article – Support Equal Pay Case – Australian Services Union calls for mobilisation

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