This is absolutely a priority for the PSA. We know that public sector job cuts hurt, but regional public sector jobs cuts hurt regional communities even more than when it happens in Sydney. We intend to hold Barilaro to his promise that regional areas as he defines them do not get affected by these job cuts.
We also strongly believe that Newcastle and Wollongong should be included in that immunity, and shouldn’t be cut as well. Because we recognise that there are challenges in these areas, and frankly, it’s outrageous for Deputy Premier John Barilaro to define the State according to what party holds what seat, rather than what local communities and local economies need.
The PSA is holding Ministers and Department Heads, interrogating them as to how they plan to make these cuts. We are engaging with our delegates, and we intend to hold the government to account and particularly, where they say there will be no job cuts – to the ‘frontline’ and the regions – we will hold them to that.
In order to hold the government to account, we need to have as much information as possible. That is why it is imperative that a strong line of communication is retained between members and Delegates, and Delegates and PSA industrial staff.
The PSA has met with various Ministers and Department Heads and they have all told us the same thing. They have said there will be no cuts to the ‘frontline’, and we welcome that. However, they have said that they face huge challenges to their budget, and what they have not put on the table is how they intend to cope with those challenges. It is something that is still emerging, which is why it is so important that we have this dialogue with all of our Delegates, and it is why Delegates on the ground really have to engage with our industrial staff, to make sure we safeguard the interests of our membership.
The Berejiklian government and its predecessors have been in power for 8 years, and in that time they have sold $70 billion worth of assets. They are now at a point where they have sold everything that is worth something. For this reason, we do not believe that a traditional privatisation is on the cards. Rather, the PSA believes we’re looking at outsourcing as the new privatisation.
The 2019-20 State budget did not announce any further sales or outsourcing. However, we know that there are areas of ours that they are looking at. We know there are companies – large private sector companies – such as Serco, Broadspectrum, Transfield, interested in picking up our members’ work.
It is our job, in the next year, in the next two years, and across the term of this government, firstly to raise your profile enough that people know the important work you do and the important services you work in, and why they matter to members of the public.
Secondly, should they dare announce any privatisation, we fight it and we fight it hard. So right now, for the next 12 months, we don’t know of any. But this could change at any moment and our members need to be vigilant and we all need to be ready to take that on if it does occur.
We have an increasing number of members who are in the federal industrial relations system, including our universities sector, our recently privatised disabilities sector, those that work in TAFE, and those that work in State Owned Corporations. Their working conditions and rights come from the Fair Work Act in the federal legislation.
Like probably every other union and every other unionist in this country, we were grossly disappointed with the federal election result in May – and that’s without being party-partisan. It is because in that federal election, the people of Australia had a choice – they had a choice of the current Fair Work system, which produces grossly unfair outcomes and is extremely difficult for our members to get a fair deal, despite its name. Or they had a choice of a party who was standing, (among other things) saying it would reform that system.
Unfortunately, the electorate decided to re-elect the Morrison government for another term, so we are not going to get any change on a legislative basis on the Fair Work Act in the next term of government. If we do get any change, it will probably be for the worse.
That said, we want to assure our members that in our CPSU coverage, we have built an enormous capacity in our union in the last couple of years. We have a very qualified team of practitioners who are ready to take on the system and use it to its full benefit for our members. Beyond them, we are developing and have developed an enormous, brilliant cohort of Delegates in those workplaces who are also aware of the system.
If you are with an employer that is in the federal system, please feel free to contact us for training and support, because the stronger we are on the ground in the federal system, the stronger the outcomes we can achieve.
The simple answer is that you do not do that work. Your employer is saying that that work is redundant. Furthermore, by making that work redundant, they are actually receiving benefits from the federal government by way of tax offsets and the like, because they have identified that work as no longer being required. So please, do not do the work. There is absolutely no obligation for you to do that work legally.
The PSA has long highlighted to the government that the idea of front and back office staff is a false premise. Taking staff away from duties in supposed “back office” roles means that someone from the supposed “front line” has to do that work. As Troy Wright said throughout the Budget media period, it’s a lie to suggest there are Public Servants out there doing nothing of value to this state.
That said, we have met with Ministers and Department Heads to establish where this government thinks these areas are and try to define which of our members are threatened by the cuts. We’ll be working hard to show exactly how it is that each area identified as a back area is important to service delivery and why there is no such thing as job cuts without service cuts.
Industrial staff are mapping their areas to ensure we have a complete picture of what is happening within each agency. This process is complicated by the dual threat of restructures for cuts and to implement the MoG changes announced earlier this year.
That’s why we felt the need to hold this live event direct with Delegates, to enlist your help as the eyes and ears of the Union and to ensure we have accurate, and timely, information to assist us in our campaign.
The PSA is committed to addressing mental health issues within the Public sector and the state more broadly. Our mental health conferences will be held yearly, and we hope to hold additional events in regional areas as well, to ensure that this issue doesn’t drop off the agenda.
NSW lags behind best practice in dealing with mental health issues, particularly for high risk areas such as our prison officers, child protection workers and other emergency service and first responder groups within the Public Sector. The PSA Executive intends to make this a key policy area for the government to address, by walking the walk rather than the empty talk, which is all we’ve seen recently coming from their policy units and media announcements.
This Union is 120 years strong this year and we’ll continue to celebrate this event. Already this year, the PSA has met its internal goal of growth for the year and at the moment we’re focused on increasing engagement with you and building our internal strength through delegate networks and building membership.
Campaigning around issues will continue and the Unions will talk to our sister Unions over how we continue to campaign over the next four years.
We are sure when the time is right, we’ll roll out a new campaign slogan but in the meantime, our campaigning and efforts to grow stronger continue into year 121.
As stated during the broadcast, the Union has been proactive in attempting to consult with agencies both via letter and in face to face meetings. As the scope and scale of the cuts continues to emerge, the Union will continue this high level consultation and keep you informed.
However, we remind Delegates that this type of engagement is just the start. Delegates and their Industrial staff will need to ensure they are also meeting regularly with their local managers and with members.
Where consultation is not happening, Industrial staff have been instructed to lodge disputes with the IRC immediately to fix the issues.
The PSA has trialled this system of communication with Delegates and feel it has been a success. We will be adding video conferencing and any other means of technology to assist us in our efforts, both Union wide and for agency specific events where it makes sense to do so.
We’re keen to use any means possible to build the strength of our Union and getting Delegates together, like we did for this live stream, is part of those plans.