Monday, June 06, 2011


Unions plan protest rally against new salary cap

Anna Patty, Alexandra Smith

June 6, 2011

PUBLIC sector unions will step up their campaign today in protest against the state government's controversial wages policy, which will cap salary increases at 2.5 per cent.

Unions, including those representing 70,000 teachers, 36,000 nurses and 45,000 public sector workers, will meet today to plan a strategy against the wages policy, which Parliament is expected to pass next week.

The president of the Public Service Association, Sue Walsh, said she would propose staging a rally in opposition to the policy, which will require public sector workers to make savings before any salary increases above 2.5 per cent are awarded.

Advertisement: Story continues below ''There is no doubt in my mind we will step things up and there will be a huge protest against the O'Farrell government,'' Ms Walsh said.

The associaton, which has 45,000 members, has a wage case before the Industrial Relations Commission. Ms Walsh said she expected this would have resulted in an increase of 3.5 to 4 per cent.

The NSW Nurses Association, which has 35,000 members in public hospitals and 1200 in disability services, is also negotiating an increase in penalty rates for night staff. Nurses who work in disability services and aged care will also negotiate a new award this month.

They had expected to achieve the 3.9 per cent already awarded to public hospital nurses this financial year as part of a three-year agreement. The agreement will deliver 3 per cent from July and 2.5 per cent the following financial year.

The general secretary of the Nurses Association, Brett Holmes, said disability nurses faced getting a 2.5 per cent increase ''while their colleagues across the road in hospitals get 3 per cent at the end of this month''.

''We have this bizarre situation where police were able to lobby the Shooters and Christian Democrats, but we didn't get in to see them, so we are not going to have the same rights, it appears,'' Mr Homes said.

Police are the only public sector workers who have been exempted from the 2.5 per cent cap.

The Christian Democrats MP Fred Nile said he pushed the government for the exemption because the police had a wage case before the Industrial Relations Commission. Asked why he had not requested the same exemptions for disability nurses and the Public Service Association, he said they had not approached him.

The president of the Police Association, Scott Weber, said the crossbench MPs had listened to the concerns of police, but the association was not convinced it could take the government on its word.

''Before the election, Barry O'Farrell said we would retain our right to an independent umpire. But less than two months after the election, he tried to take it away,'' Mr Weber said. ''How can we trust this government again?''

The government released a statement on Saturday that said the wages bill had passed the Legislative Council, but a spokesman for Mr O'Farrell yesterday conceded this was premature.

The spokesman said the bill would need to return to the upper house for the third reading on June 14 and would then go to a vote in the lower house before it becomes law.