Sunday 3rd July 2011
O’Farrell’s new Workplace Act attacks public sector wages and conditions.A Liberal government is elected to office in a landslide, without a whisper of its radical anti-worker IR policy, and within one month launches a massive attack on public sector wages and conditions. Sound familiar?
Where Peter Reith, John Howard and Tony Abbott have ventured and failed Barry O’Farrell has chosen to follow with new laws that will allow the government to unilaterally set the wages and conditions of NSW public sector workers and reduce the former independent umpire to a rubber stamp for the government’swages policy.
Under the new laws, the NSW IR Commission will now be compelled to listen to and enforce the arguments raised by management on behalf of the NSW Coalition Government.
The changes put at risk the wages and conditions of more than 400,000 workers across NSW, including nurses working in the public health system and in state-run disability services.
NSW public sector workers will now have the worst industrial rights of any workers in Australia.
Premier Barry O’Farrell has cited Treasury data, implying that the government is broke due to a wages explosion in the public sector, to justify his draconian laws.
NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes says these dishonest arguments just don’t stack up.
‘In May 2011, the independent ratings agency Standard and Poors reviewed the NSW budget and not only reaffirmed the State’s AAA credit rating, but also concluded the budget position of the NSW Government was very good,’ he said.
‘This independent review proves there is no budget reason why this action was necessary by the O’Farrell Government.’
Research by the Workplace Research Centre at Sydney University debunks the myth that NSW public sector wages are out of control.
It found that NSW public sector workers earn similar wages to equivalent workers in other states and close to average weekly earnings.
Barry O’Farrell says the new laws merely reflect the policy of the previous Labour government to limit wage increases to 2.5%.
But the Minister for Community Services and Women, Pru Goward, was more forthright about the real goal of the laws.
‘You will find that, as the Premier has said, these trade-offs are a perfectly acceptable part of industrial relations. These proposals are about trade-offs,’ she told the State Parliament.
Barry O’Farrell has used data released by NSW Treasury to imply there has been a wages explosion among NSW Public Sector workers. But an analysis by the Workplace Research Centre at Sydney University has found that NSW public sector workers are paid pretty much the same as equivalent workers in other states and close to average weekly earnings.
The study also found that if the proposed changes had been in place for the past 10 years, NSW nurses, teachers and police would be the worst paid in the country by a significant margin.
The Workplace Relations Centre calculated that if this new legislation had been enacted in 2001, a public health system full-time eighth year RN would be $12,232 worse off per year.
The study says that any gap between public and private sector weekly earnings is explained by differences in qualifications, experience and occupation between the sectors.