Issue #1563 5 September 2012
NSW government attack on public sector
NSW public sector employees stand to lose or have reduced a range of long-standing benefits, including shift penalties, annual leave loading and leave entitlements, under an O’Farrell government application before the NSW Industrial Relations Commission (IRC).
A public sector rally in Macquarie Street Sydney last year.
(Photo: Anna Pha)
The state’s Minister for Finance, Greg Pearce, has, however, defended the move as part of the public sector wage negotiation process – despite Premier Barry O’Farrell saying that public sector cuts were necessary because the state was in a “dire” financial position.
The government’s public sector wages policy allows for pay increases above a 2.5 percent cap only if funded by employee-related savings, and according to Pearce, the application proposes such measures.
“Where these reforms result in real savings, the IRC will then be able to pass that on to employees as additional salary increases,” he said. “However, at this stage they are simply proposals from the government in an ongoing negotiation.”
He said nothing would happen unless employees or the IRC agreed.
The government’s application seeks variations to the Crown Employees (Public Service Conditions of Employment) Award 2009 – a parent award. It has told the tribunal it will follow that up with mirror applications for a further 98 public sector awards covering some 80,000 workers.
According to the Public Service Association’s (PSA) principal industrial officer, Aysha Lewis, members affected by the initial application include clerical workers, disability support employees, those in residential child protection, national parks employees, and legal aid lawyers. It also covers nurses in aged-care, disability and homecare who fall under the Crown Employees award.
Lewis said the government had not yet given it the list of the other awards it will seek to have varied.
The NSW PSA is opposing the government’s move in its entirety and its executive has authorised a stop work on October 8 in response to the application and other recent measures the union maintains are hostile to public sector employees.
These include its 2.5 percent salary cap legislation, which the PSA is challenging in the High Court and its June Budget announcement that it was cutting 10,000 public service jobs over four years – on top of the 5,000 voluntary redundancies announced last year.
According to the PSA, the government’s application seeks to:
- abolish the 17.5% loading on annual leave;
- tighten the definition of a shift worker to someone who works outside 7.30am and 6pm, plus change weekday shift loadings;
- cut shift-workers’ recreation leave entitlement from six and seven weeks for some to a maximum of five weeks for all;
- narrow the definition of parental and adoption leave, which Lewis says will exclude long-term foster parents plus kinship and surrogacy arrangements;
- abolish Family and Community Service Leave (FACS) leave by combining it with sick leave in a new personal/carer’s leave clause;
- remove the ability of employees on workers’ compensation to use any accrued and untaken sick leave to make up the difference between the amount of compensation payable under the Act and their ordinary rate of pay;
- replace “special leave”, which is paid leave, with a new, tighter “miscellaneous leave” provision, which “may be granted with or without pay”;
- move employees experiencing domestic violence onto miscellaneous leave rather than special leave when their other leave is exhausted;
- axe benefits for remote workers, including their remote allowance; additional five days recreation leave; and travel assistance;
- end some travel provisions; and
- scrap a range of allowances, including for home offices, semi-official telephones, and garaging of department cars.
The PSA’s Lewis told Workplace Express she expected the matter, which is currently before the IRC’s president, Justice Roger Boland, would be arbitrated in about March next year.
Next article – Qld govt on the attack
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