Work law protest rally
Monday, 27th June, 2011
By Andrew Robertson
The NSW government’s freeze on public sector wages will hurt Broken Hill because it will drive people out of professions like teaching and nursing, a union has warned.
The warning came as local unions organise a rally for tomorrow afternoon to protest against the NSW Government’s controversial industrial changes.
NSW Nurses’ Association branch president Bonnie Tavian said yesterday the 2.5 per cent cap on wage increases would lead to a drop in the recruitment and retention of public sector workers.
“Then Broken Hill will be the first not to have enough teachers and nurses,” Mrs Tavian said.
“It’s hard enough to get teachers and nurses out here so if you start not to provide good wages and support, you’re not going to pick it as a career.”
The changes, which were passed by both houses of Parliament earlier this month, give the government the power to stipulate wages and conditions for public servants and requires the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) to consent to its policy.
The government has said wage increases above 2.5 per cent will be granted as long as productivity savings are delivered first.
Mrs Tavian said taking away the powers of the IRC was particularly disturbing for workers.
“There’s no negotiation, there’s no middle man,” she said.
“There’s quite a few people affected by this.
“I think it will change people’s view at the next election.”
Tomorrow’s rally will be held at 4.30pm at the Bromide Street office of local MP John Williams.
Mrs Tavian said she had put up fliers advertising the rally around the hospital and had notified some of the local branch’s 180 members via email.
Representatives from the teachers, police, corrective services, firefighters and local government unions were also expected to attend.
President of the Barrier Teachers Association, Maureen Clark, said unionist felt they needed to take their concerns directly to Mr Williams.
She said it was important that as many unionists and their families as possible attend the rally.
“We want support from the public and we want all public sector unionists there and their families. It is of grave concern to families and they should be there to support public-sector workers,” Mrs Clark said.
“Public sector workers themselves should ensure they understand the threat to their wages and work conditions because they have never experienced this threat before.
“They have always been able to access the industrial umpire in the NSW IRC but this has now ended.
“There’s no ability to negotiate and the threat to working conditions is really of great concern.”
Mrs Clark, who attended a rally of public sector workers outside Parliament House in Sydney earlier this month, said 2.5 per cent wages cap was being brought in at a time of double digit rises in electricity and gas.
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She said unions also believe the changes to how public sector wages and conditions were set was just the beginning.
“It’s opening the gates to an attack on all workers.”
Barrier Industrial Council (BIC) president Danny O’Connor suggested that council workers would be the next target.
“Mark my words, local government will be next.”
He said over 400,000 public sector workers would be directly affected by the latest industrial changes, not including their families.
“(Premier) Barry O’Farrell has lied by stealth - and so has John Williams - because it (the wage freeze) was not raised before or during the election campaign.”