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.