Legislation being rushed through the NSW Upper House today threatens to drag hundreds of transport workers from the Federal Fair Work laws back into the Coalition's new low-wage NSW public sector system.
See Daily Telegraph "Transport workers unions fear ambush in amalgamation": http://tiny.cc/uczgt
Greens NSW MP and Industrial Relations spokesperson David Shoebridge said: "Not content with undermining the wages and conditions of teachers, police and firefighters, Barry O'Farrell is now proposing to limit the wages of workers in the transport sector.
"The Coalition will once again be ramming this change through the Upper House today by using the support of the Shooters and Fred Nile to suspend the usual one week notice period.
"This is the thin end of the wedge for those state employees who are currently covered by the fairer federal industrial laws.
"This change will have an immediate impact on hundreds of workers from RailCorp, Sydney Ferries and other state-owned corporations who will effectively be roped into the new Transport Service, losing their right to bargain for fair wages and conditions under the Federal Fair Work Act.
Reports that the O'Farrell government is planning massive cuts to public service jobs raise concerns of increasing unemployment and declining services, according to Greens NSW MP John Kaye. ('Premier Barry O'Farrell gets set to wield the axe through the public service', Daily Telegraph, 11 August 2011, p 1: http://bit.ly/nLJIfM)
Dr Kaye said: "Premier Barry O'Farrell and his economic ministers are obsessed with driving a budget surplus, even if it means untold suffering for households that depend on quality public services.
"Treasurer Mike Baird and Finance Minister Greg Pearce are reported to be taking a knife to so-called 'back-office staff' whose work is crucial to the delivery of services and programs.
"Without clerical, research and administrative support, front line staff will struggle.
"Balancing the budget by squeezing public sector employment is the worst kind of short-term thinking.
"Running down the workforce will create damaging capacity problems.
"The O'Farrell government has already launched a savage attack on public sector workers and the services they deliver.
"Piling a budget assault on top of the wage cutting industrial relations laws will undermine the viability of public services.
"The O'Farrell government should accept that running a deficit during an economic downturn does no long term damage to the economy and can help reduce unemployment," Dr Kaye said.
In answer to a question by Greens MP and Industrial Relations spokesperson David Shoebridge in the NSW Upper House, Finance Minister Greg Peace failed to commit to funding the ASU's Equal Pay for Equal Work case, and wrongly alleged that the Federal Government had made no commitment to fund the outcomes of the case.
"In answer to a direct question about the NSW submission to Fair Work Australia, the Minister engaged in a discursive and inaccurate answer on the federal government's position," Mr Shoebridge said.
In a vote that went down to the wire, the O'Farrell government, with the support of Fred Nile and the Shooters, defeated a motion to disallow the government's public sector wages regulation 18-20 in the NSW Upper House.
Greens MP and Industrial Relations spokesperson David Shoebridge said:
"Now that the regulation remains on the books it entrenches ongoing real wage cuts for public sector workers.
"With inflation running at 3.6 per cent public sector workers will now struggle to get even the maximum 2.5 per cent wage increase allowable over the next 12 months.
"This is a real blow to some 400,000 public sector workers by the O'Farrell government.
"These cuts will have an impact well beyond public sector workers. People in NSW will see reduced services in our schools, hospitals and other public services.
"Public sector workers in NSW have been held hostage to the marginal interests of the extreme Christian and gun lobbies in this state.
"The right wing minor parties who have supported the government failed to even speak in the house on why it was that they were opposing the disallowance motion.
The NSW Government's submission to Fair Work Australia filed on 2 August, regarding the ASU's Equal Pay for Equal Work case, opposes the claims of the ASU and if accepted will see community sector workers fail in their bid to receive equal pay.
Greens NSW MP and Industrial Relations spokesperson David Shoebridge said:
"The NSW Government's latest submission rejects the basis on which the ASU seeks to gain equal pay. If accepted it will mean the death of the case and ongoing gender pay inequity in the community services sector.
"The government's submission openly relies on the harsh NSW public sector wages policy to limit the ASU's pay claims, unmasking the government's deeply unfair and inequitable position on public wages in NSW.
"This submission places NSW at odds with all other jurisdictions in Australia. NSW is the only state to have committed nothing to address the need for equal pay for equal work.
NSW's two largest churches have dropped their campaign against the ethics alternative to special religious education in public schools, leaving Christian Democrat MP Fred Nile with the only fringe support, according to Greens NSW MP John Kaye. ('Nile isolated as Anglicans back ethics classes' Sydney Morning Herald, 21 July, page 1, http://j.mp/qvOEDt)
Dr Kaye said: "The case against ethics classes has now collapsed.
"The Catholic and Anglican churches have finally recognised that denying the rights of children who do not attend their scripture classes is turning into a public relations disaster.
"Without the support of the big two, Fred Nile's campaign against ethics will have to rely on fringe groups.
The O'Farrell government cannot compromise with Christian Democrat Upper House MP Fred Nile by moving ethics classes to a different period to religious instruction without breaching the existing legislation and breaking a key election promise, according to Greens NSW MP John Kaye. ('Nile ties his vote to change in ethics class timetable', Sydney Morning Herald, 20 July 2011, page 3, http://j.mp/smh110720)
Dr Kaye said: "Fred Nile is playing word games to get himself off the hook.
"Both the courts and common sense would hold that an 'alternative' class is only an 'alternative' if it is run at the same time.
"Offering secular lessons at different place in the timetable would not satisfy the Act and would require Barry O'Farrell to break his election promise.
"The 2010 legislation was specifically drafted to ensure that students who did not attend scripture classes had access to the ethics alternative while the other students were receiving special religious education.
Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon will today join with the Secretary of the Newcastle Trades Hall Council Gary Kennedy and Newcastle City Greens Councillor Michael Osborne in backing the Carbon Price Package as good news for Hunter residents, jobs and the environment.
This Newcastle visit is the start of Senator Rhiannon's Carbon Price Package tour across NSW.
"The Hunter has always been the energy powerhouse of NSW and much of the national economy. The Carbon Price Package will enable the region to continue to play this role," Senator Rhiannon said.
"The carbon price agreement is a springboard to a clean energy future and the Hunter will be at the forefront.
Upper House Christian Democrat MP Fred Nile has the power to make good on a threat to undo Premier Barry O'Farrell's freeze on public sector workers' pay unless the Coalition supports his legislation to repeal the ethics alternative to scripture in public schools, according to Greens NSW MP John Kaye. (ABC TV News 7:00 pm Monday 18 July)
Greens NSW MP John Kaye said: "Fred Nile has set up the ultimate wedge for Barry O'Farrell.
"The Premier could well be faced with the choice of either breaking his election promise to leave the ethics alternative to scripture alone or experiencing the ultimate humiliation of having his industrial relations agenda scuttled.
"Fred Nile and his fellow Christian Democrat Paul Green are now in the driver's seat.
"If they vote with Greens and Labor Upper House MPs when parliament returns on 2 August, we can defeat the regulation that empowers the 2.5 percent freeze on wages and the trade-offs for further salary increases.
The Greens NSW have thrown their support behind a campaign by journalists at the Newcastle Herald and the Illawarra Mercury, whose wages and conditions are under threat from Fairfax management.
The Melbourne based management intends to remove these journalists from the 'Metro' agreement, by which they earn similar amounts as counterparts at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and reclassify them as regional reporters on lower wages.
Greens NSW MP and Industrial Relations spokesperson David Shoebridge said:
"The Newcastle Herald and Illawarra Mercury are required reading in their localities, and their journalists should continue to be paid as much as their counterparts at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.