The Guardian March 3, 1999


Lightning strike rocks SA Govt

by Peter Mac

Thousands of South Australian public sector employees in Adelaide walked 
off the job last Wednesday in protest at the Government's failure to deal 
adequately with the issue of pay and conditions for State employees.

The dispute, which was aggravated by the long-running issue of salary 
inequities within State employee gradings, shut down the State's courts, 
prisons, Housing Trust and key government revenue collecting centres such 
as the Land Titles Office.

Only a skeleton staff remained to provide minimum service for hospitals, 
Family and Youth Services, the State Library and the Museum, as well as 
transport, education and community health services.

The Government had previously refused to negotiate with the unions, 
preferring to send an offer of a small increase to individual union members 
within the State Public Service.

The employees rejected it three to one.

The Government subsequently offered an increase of one per cent, but with a 
revised implementation date that effectively eliminated the increase.

When that was also rejected by the union the Government refused once again 
to negotiate with them.

General Secretary of the Public Service Association (PSA), Jan MacMahon, 
said that the action "puts the Government on notice that it must come back 
to the negotiating table and resolve this dispute fairly or it will face a 
long and highly disruptive industrial campaign.

"Public sector employees want a fair deal and that means getting the 
national average of five per cent, not the three per cent the Government 
has offered this year, at a time when departmental CEOs have been given pay 
rises of up to 26 per cent and state MPs are poised to receive an 18 per 
cent increase."

Since the strike, the Government has bypassed the Industrial Relations 
Commission and issued a summons for the union to appear before the 
Industrial Relations Court, in particular concerning the action at the Land 
Titles Office, which has significantly affected the collection of 
government revenue.

The Government has now sent a letter to union members stating that every 
per cent above their previous offer won by the union will result in the 
loss of 300 state employee positions.

The State Public Service has already lost 20,000 positions in the last five 
years.

At the time of The Guardian going to press, the Industrial Relations 
Court was expected to hand down a verdict in the case.

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