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Issue #1852      December 12, 2018

CPSU/CSA Delegates wage claim in WA

On December 5, over 100 delegates of the CPSU/CSA representing public servants attended a mass meeting either in person in Perth or online through Zoom to discuss and consider endorsing their next wage claim. In the last wage agreement the members accepted $1,000 plus $1,000 for a two-year period, which was less than CPI. This was because the state was in financial difficulty. Western Australia (WA) is now not in such a precarious financial state, so they are seeking a wage agreement to recover from the previous austerity measures and ensure their wages and conditions are not eroded.

New Branch Secretary Rikki Hendon, noted that if members were to accept what is on the table under the government’s wages policy, then our wages would go backwards. Hendon also said that officials from WA State Treasury confirmed not only public servant’s wages would go backwards but it would put us below national average wage levels.

The Your Union Agreement (YUA) proposed by the union, seeks a number of improvements in conditions and a wage claim of two percent plus 2.5 percent over two years with no trade-offs. Other conditions being sought include: No Contracting out, No Privatisation, restrictions on labour hire and casual employment, improved ceremonial and cultural leave (especially to improve attraction and retention rates of Aboriginal employees), superannuation on unpaid maternity leave, and salary packaging for use of public transport to and from work, which is a considerable expense for many employees.

A survey from 2,758 members on the proposed claim revealed 94 percent favoured the claim being sought by the union.

Hendon also spoke about a meeting with government on November 14, attended by all union leaders with members in the public sector including the State School Teachers Union, Hospital Services Union, Prison Officers and United Voice. Senior government ministers, including the Labor Premier Mark McGowan and Treasurer Ben Wyatt and Treasury officials, indicated they would not be budging on their stated wages policy – notwithstanding improvements in Commonwealth-State funding arrangements (ie increase in GST).

Social Debit v Credit

In a comprehensive question and answer session delegates reminded the meeting that the public was already in debit with regards to cuts in services and increases in charges. If members continued receiving wage increases less than rises in the cost of living and state fees and charges increased – who would really bear the cost and who the benefit?

Delegates said union members were entitled to at least maintain their standard of living by retaining their conditions and receiving a pay increase above CPI. The government’s Voluntary Targeted Separation Scheme (VTSS) had also been used to save money by abolishing positions which in some cases left the remaining workers with excessive workloads.

The people of WA were in turn entitled to have access to goods and services which would be a credit to their families and communities, including appropriate social and environmental policies.

These included looking providing for Aboriginal communities, developing renewable energy instead of fracking and, as raised by one delegate from the Department of Justice, appropriate funding for the recommendations of the government’s recently released Meth Action Plan Report. In some cases the government needs to spend to later save money by addressing the causes of drug abuse and properly rehabilitate offenders.

Some delegates reported it would be difficult to engage members who were traditionally unaccustomed to taking industrial action. However, Hendon said the government had demonstrated they were not prepared to move on their wages policy and now, “We need to shift our members.” They also said it was imperative our members and delegates become activated – which should be done through a build-up of members’ actions in pursuit of our claim. Our unions’ claim would also be the first of the public sector unions to challenge the government’s wages policy.

The delegates voted unanimously to accept the proposed claim which means bargaining can commence with the government to achieve a satisfactory response.

The Communist Party of Australia supports the CPSU/CSA Your Union Agreement claim, which would ensure union members maintain and improve their wages and conditions and that sufficient resources are allocated to maintain quality public services and infrastructure – including the valuable staff who ensure its ongoing effective operation.

* Richard Titelius is a CPSU/CSA delegate

Next article – The 20th International Meeting of the Communist and Workers Parties

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