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Issue #1492      9 March 2011

WA public servants rally and march

The Community and Public Sector Union/Civil Service Association (CPSU/CSA) has for over six months undertaken a campaign for a new General Agreement (GA5) which will cover their wages and conditions for 2-3 years.

Over 1,300 members attended the rally at the Perth Convention Centre.

In January 2011, after nearly four months of waiting for a response from the government on their wages campaign, the CPSU/CSA received their response which demonstrated that their employer the Barnett state government were showing their contempt for the unions claim.

In response the union advised the membership they would step up their campaign and these efforts would include publicising the government’s response among the membership and calling a mass meeting of members at the Perth Convention Centre at which members could decide what action they would take in pursuit of their claim.

On March 3, over 1,300 members attended the rally at the Perth Convention Centre to hear from the union leadership on the progress of the claim and the government’s failure to bargain in good faith. This came as a series of offers which if the union were to accept them would mean a trade off of conditions in return for slightly better – yet still mediocre update on their original offer: 10.5 percent over three years as opposed to 9 percent, while the union’s claim is for 10 percent over two years.

State branch secretary Toni Walkington was the first to address the rally and spoke on the so-called economic boom that was principally being led by the mining resources sector and which did not necessarily translate into economic prosperity for the rest of the community.

Why is the government’s offer not fair or equitable?

In response Ms Walkington urged members to consider what their wages were worth in real terms, “As the cost of living is above the consumer price index (CPI), the CPI which is a measure of inflation rather than a measure of the cost of living, may include items such as house prices which are going down while most public servants are not regularly buying and selling their homes.” She said that for most workers the cost of living is about the cost of services, the cost of food, petrol and rent and these are often increasing at a rate far above the CPI. Therefore added Ms Walkington, “The government needed to consider these factors when deciding how much to pay public servants.”

The next to address the rally was CPSU/CSA assistant branch secretary Jo Gaines who spoke of the progress to date on the difficult and often fruitless negotiations with the government on the GA5 claim and how even by the government’s own measure of the value of the conditions such as changes to long service leave and leave loading they were not offering public servants the percentage value on what was being traded off.

Ms Gaines concluded by noting, “The government has an agenda which lowers the cost of employee salaries and conditions which amount to driving down wages and conditions as a precursor to preparing this public sector for privatisation.”

Branch president Lea Mackay next presented a series of five resolutions which rejected the government’s offers to date, rejected the recommendations of the Amendola Report which would bring in involuntary severance, do away with permanency and bring in individual contracts, supported the union’s publicity campaign of paid advertisements and community engagement proposed that those members in attendance march on to the Premier Colin Barnett’s office at the conclusion of the rally.

Not surprisingly considering the angry mood of the members present, they voted for the resolution to march, demonstrating that at times like this, the members are more prepared for militancy than some of those who are more cautious amongst the leadership.

Close to 300 members with colourful banners and loud chants calling for a better deal for public servants and “No Privatisation” marched on to the Premier’s office at Governor Stirling Tower to show the government that their current offer was not acceptable.

There will be another delegates’ meeting on March 31, where the negotiating team will report back. If no acceptable offer has been received at that time, there will be a members rally at Parliament House on April 7.  

Next article – Hunter Valley residents say NO to mining

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