|Issue No 106||10 August 2001|
WorkCover Revisited – Public Sector Laws Rammed Through
The Carr Government is ramming through plans to deregulate public sector employment in line with the Howard-Reith model of workplace relations despite direct opposition from unions.
The legislation that is being pushed through has drawn fire both for what it does contain - as well as it's failure to protect the entitlements of casual public sector employees.
The move has prompted the NSW Labor Council to warn the Government it could "have another WorkCover on its hands" - a reference to the breakdown in process that` led to the picket of State Parliament over changes to workers compensation.
The Public Service Association says it was told this week that the Cabinet had approved the drafting of new Public Sector Management Act in the next two weeks - despite direct opposition from unions during the consultation process.
It has been told the government plans to put legislation before Parliament before the end of the year.
Rewriting the Rules
The new Act would rewrite the rules for employing all public servants, as well as employees of many state-owned corporations, bringing in aspects of the Howard-Reith IR agenda.
This would include undermining job security by increasing the capacity for non-permanent employment by spreading casual and fixed-term contracts. It would also provide the framework to push all public servants onto individual contracts under a future Coalition Government.
The legislation is based on the Premier Department's 'Public Sector Future Directions Discussion Paper" which was circulated in August 2000 and formally rejected by Labor Council and its affiliates.
Entitlements Left Up In the Air
In a formal response to the NSW Premiers Department, the PSA has stated it can not support an extension in non-permanent employment in the public sector until a plan is put in place to protect the entitlements of precarious employees,
"Some employers are known to engage individuals for a period a s38 Temporaries and then re-engage them as casuals," PSA general secretary Maurie O'Sullivan says in his response.
"Individuals may accrue long periods of employment over many years punctuated by employer-imposed breaks.
"Parallels can be drawn between this practice and the notorious corporate employers who at the point of insolvency are discovered to have squandered their employee entitlements away.
"The onus is on the NSW Government as the nation's largest employer to demonstrate its commitment to 'protection of employees' entitlements by addressing the exploitation of its own public sector employees."
O'Sullivan says the Carr Government should explore the establishment of a scheme that would 'catch' non-permanents in precarious employment, either through:
- the long Service Leave scheme that currently applies to workers in the NSW building industry.
- or the union-initiated Manusafe scheme.
Modus Operandi Under Fire
O'Sullivan says the government should not introduce changes until it has reached an agreed position with public sector unions.
"It is extremely regrettable that a State Labor Government - which is the largest employer nationally - should be moving towards a Howard/Reith model of public employment on the advice of senior bureaucrats in the central agencies of the Premiers' Department, Cabinet Office and Treasury," he says.
"Ironically, NSW will have a highly centralised industrial relations system and a deregulated public employment framework."
NSW Labor Council secretary John Robertson says the approach of government negotiators of ignoring union concerns appears to becoming a trend.
"The government needs to understand that while we are happy to consult, we will not sit back idly as they ram Bills through parliament with no regard to our concerns".
"This was precisely the issue that sparked the WorkCover showdown - a long consultation process and then the government totally ignored the outcome of those negotiations. " He says the matter will be taken up directly with the Premier.
STOP PRESS After this article was posted, Minister for Industrial Relations John Della Bosca's office contacted Labor Council with the statement: "the Bill is being drafted for the purposes of consultation".
Interview: In Exile
Burmese's government in exile's Minister for Justice U Thein Oo talks about a struggle for democracy that has become a test of international solidarity.
Politics: A National Disgrace
Labor's IR spokesman Arch Bevis gives his take on the workers entitlements issue and its mismanagement by the Howard Government.
E-Change: 2.2 The Information Organisation
Peter Lewis and Michael Gadiel look at how network technologies will change the way organizations operate in the Information Age.
Media: The Fine Print
Mark Hebblewhite looks at how the major dailies handled the Tri-Star dispute and finds that the story really does depend on the telling.
Human Rights: A People Besieged
Labor MLC Janelle Saffin, an active supporter of the pro-Democracy movement in Burma, sets out the issues behind the ILO sanctions.
International: Postcard From Brazil
The CFMEU’s Phil Davey reports on a rural movement that puts our National Farmers Federation to shame.
History: Indonesia Calling
They needed no resolutions. Soldiers and workers who did not know one another moved together, the black ban started to reach out across the harbour from the noisy, smoke-filled room.
Solidarity: On the Frontline
Australian trade unionists are providing practical help for the Burmese through projects funded by APHEDA-Union Aid Abroad.
Satire: Skase 'Too Ill' to Fly Home for Burial
Spanish authorities have deemed Christopher Skase too ill to return to Australia for his own funeral.
Review: Living Silence
In these extracts from her new book, Christina Fink goes inside Burma to find a world where military repression is slowly crushing a people.
View entire latest issue
© 1999-2000 Labor Council of NSW
LaborNET is a resource for the labour movement provided by the Labor Council of NSWURL: http://workers.labor.net.au/106/news12_public.html
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005