||Issue No. 331||03 November 2006|
From Green House to Glass House
Interview: Common Ground
Industrial: A Low Act
Unions: The Number of the Least
Politics: The Smoking Gun
Economics: Microcredit, Compulsory Superannuation and Inequality
Environment: Low Voltage
History: The Art of Social Justice
Review: Work’s Unhealthy Appetite
Culture: A Forgotten Poet
Medibank Staff Go Under Knife
In a report released this week by Finance Minister Nick Minchin, accountancy firm CRA International claimed that the sale could result in 7% "increased efficiency" by cutting jobs across the workforce.
Specifically, the bean-counters focused on savings due to a "rationalisation of management, call centre and customer delivery mechanisms."
While the Government has indicated it will not proceed with the actual sale unless re-elected at the next federal poll, a bill that enables the eventual sell-off landed in Parliament this week.
The arrival of the legislation coincided with the release of another report from the Parliamentary Library questioning the legality of the privatisation plan, raising the possibility that policy holders might be eligible for compensation if the sale proceeded in its current form.
Having failed to consult Medibank Private members regarding its intentions to sell, the Government predictably dismissed the independent report, releasing instead a privately commissioned paper it had prepared earlier.
Responding to overwhelming criticism from doctors, academics and unions that privatisation of Medibank Private would drive up the cost of premiums, the Government's plan advocates slashing jobs from the workforce, supposedly reducing pressure on operating costs and thus keeping a lid on premiums.
According to the Save Medibank Alliance, Medibank Private's recently improved performance and climbing profits are a direct result of taking on more staff, not less.
CPSU's Stephen Jones told Workers Online that the improved results came as no surprise.
"By investing in the workforce, Medibank has increased its capacity to win new customers and deliver better services. It's not brain surgery," he said.
"The Government plan to cut jobs will only compromise operational capacities and reduce Medibank's ability to attract and retain new business. It's like prescribing a lobotomy for a headache," Jones said.
With public opposition to the latest Government fire sale growing, the man responsible for the creation of the private health insurer joined the fray.
Former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, in a letter to CPSU's Jones, lent his support to the campaign, arguing that selling Medibank would lead to increased upward pressure on private health fees.
"When Medibank Private was introduced, we believed that, if the Government were actively involved in the business, we would have a better handle on costs and outcomes than if it were done by private enterprise," Fraser wrote.
"I believe it would be a great pity if Medibank Private were sold and that would lead to escalating fees."
Find out more at www.savemedibank.net.au
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