Saturday 3rd September 2011
ADHC nurses among the first to suffer O’Farrell’s wage freeze.
Nurses working in Ageing Disability and Home Care (ADHC) are among the first NSW public sector employees forced to accept a cut in real wages, with a one year, 2.5% wage rise from NSW Health in line with the State Government’s hardline wages policy.
ADHC nurses reluctantly accepted the 2.5% wage offer over one year from NSW Health. The pay increase begins from the first pay period on or after 1 July 2011.
The O’Farrell Government has imposed legal limits on wage increases to 2.5% each year unless ‘sufficient employee-related cost savings’ have been achieved to offset any additional increase. Increases beyond 2.5% are only payable after such cost savings have been achieved.
In previous years the NSWNA would have taken such a low offer to the NSW Industrial Relations Commission to be arbitrated, according to NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes.
‘We would have had a reasonable expectation of a better wages outcome from the Commission. That has been its track record. It has historically taken a broad view including the cost of living and the particular circumstances of nurses.
‘This option has been outlawed by the Government. Barry O’Farrell now has the power to control outcomes by the Commission. He can force it to enforce his low wage policy.
‘With wage increases limited by law to 2.5%, and inflation running at 3.2%, the Government is virtually institutionalising an ongoing cut in real wages for nurses and other public sector workers,’ said Brett.
The NSW Government has abolished its commitment to find jobs for public sector employees whose positions are abolished and drastically cut the pay and conditions for so-called ‘excess employees’.
Barry O’Farrell’s new ‘Managing Excess Employees’ policy came into effect on 1 August 2011. It represents a huge reduction in terms and conditions surrounding redundancy. The changes include:
Michael Grant, an RN who works at Stockton Hospital and has worked in ADHC for more than 20 years, says that before the state election the goal was to achieve pay parity with the public health system.
‘Originally our aim was to get the same as those in public hospitals – 3.9%, 3% and 2.5%, without losing any conditions,’ he said.
‘This time we don’t have any options. For anything above 2.5% we would have to roll our conditions into the pay rise. The Public Health System nurses only lost their stocking allowance. We would lose a lot more,’ said Michael.
‘The Government has made a mockery of negotiations, and the people I work with are very upset about it. There are no real negotiations. It’s a dictatorship. O’Farrell makes a decision and that’s it, even according to one of his own ministers.
‘We were already struggling to hold on to staff and now we’re going to lose more as they go to the Public Health System with its higher wages and ratios.
‘More people are going to leave the service and it will be our clients who lose out.’
Unions NSW is expecting more than 25,000 public sector workers and supporters to turn up for a rally in the Domain on 8 September.
NSWNA Assistant General Secretary Judith Kiejda says the rally is an opportunity to send a clear message to the O’Farrell Government.
‘Here is the chance for nurses and other NSW public sector workers to show Barry O’Farrell and his Government that we are prepared to stand up for our rights at work and fair pay,’ she says.
The rally will start in the Domain at 11.30am, followed by a march past the State Library, up Macquarie Street, and ending at Hyde Park.
The rally will be the culmination of actions that took place throughout the State throughout July and August. Three hundred and fifty attended in Penrith, 500 in Parramatta, 300 on the Central Coast, 500 in Newcastle, 100 in Tweed Heads, 300 in Lismore, 200 in Grafton, 300 in Coffs Harbour, 300 in Bathurst, 800 in Orange, 200 in Dubbo and 150 each in Albury and Broken Hill.
The O’Farrell Government claims there is a ‘$4.5 billion budget black hole’ in NSW Government finances. It uses this fiction to justify its freeze of public sector wages and conditions and cuts to public services that it has flagged for the next budget.
Yet there have been at least three independent and credible reviews that have debunked the Coalition’s claims of a black hole.
Ratings agency Standard and Poors confirmed in May that the NSW budget position was strong and in a sound operating position. They gave NSW a AAA credit rating and suggested this was unlikely to change in the near future.
Standard and Poors’ analyst Claire Curtin told The Australian that $2.3 billion of the Coalition’s alleged hole sat outside the budget’s forward estimates and had no impact on the agency’s NSW rating.
A review by the Independent Parliamentary Budget Office found that the O’Farrell Government’s claims were ‘unsupported by evidence or conflict with available information on the State’s fiscal position and budgetary processes’.
A third review by the NSW Treasury found that any deterioration in the NSW budget was mostly due to a fall in revenue and that the Coalition’s figure was overstated by $3 billion.
The Treasury found that the Coalition’s black hole allegations were calculated using five-year forecasts that used changing economic data, that it inaccurately absorbed the unfunded cost of the solar bonus scheme and did not factor changes to GST revenue.