WA’s public servants say job security is more important than higher pay

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Job seekers prepare for career fair to open at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, January 6, 2011. Reuters/Mike Segar

Western Australia’s public service union has expressed willingness to postpone the push for higher pay rises if the government "ensured" public servants were "assured" of not losing their jobs. Labor Premier Mark McGowan recently announced his plans to cut the sector and lessen the number of departments by up to 40 percent.

Toni Walkington, secretary of Community and Public Sector Union, said she could not accept that the state's financial situation meant there was no money for pay rises or job security. But she stressed that for several public servants, the latter was more important.

“We need the offer to address job security and issues of concern about workloads," she told reporters at a union rally in Perth. But Walkington also pointed out that WA's 40,000 public sector in Western Australia would not put up with "machete cuts" from the government and that the last extensive industrial action by the WA public service happened during a Labor government.

McGowan believes the changes would mean as much as $750 million in savings over four years. However, the plan would also require significant job cuts.

Sharing the load of repairing damage

Before the government runs out of money for public servants' wages and other basics, it is trying to obtain a bill through parliament this week so it can borrow $11 billion. The pay rise the previous Liberal National government was offering may be reduced ahead of EBA negotiations from 1.5 percent annually to $1,000 per year.

McGowan explained that he was required to act because pay rises would be funded with borrowed money. He said the Liberals and Nationals left the biggest net debt to revenue ratio in Australia.

“Everyone across the community needs to share the load of repairing the damage to the State’s finances left behind by the Liberal National Government,” The West Australian quotes him as saying, adding that the new policy would guarantee everyone in the public sector is treated fairly. WA Today notes that several WA's public servants were getting pay increases in the past years while the mining industry was booming, making them the best paid in the country.

The McGowan government is currently forced to deal with more union problems over plans to end Synergy's monopoly on the residential retail electricity market. There were reports about reopening it to private competitors, a move that was slammed by Electrical Trades, Manufacturing Workers and Services unions.

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