Something from the bottom draw

Some of you are but most of you aren’t, so imagine if you were both an employee and a ratepayer of your Council. As a ratepayer you didn't like the old council and at the election you voted for a group of people who slammed the corruption and incompetence of the current lot and committed themselves to cleaning the place up and introducing a new honesty in politics.

And imagine, when they got elected, they pulled out of the bottom drawer some employment practices that affected you as an employee - which they knew would be so unpopular that they chose not to tell you about before the election.

You'd feel aggrieved, wouldn't you? Cheated, even.

That's precisely the scenario if you are a public sector employee living through changes currently working their way through the NSW Parliament. The Industrial Relations Amendment (Public Sector conditions of employment) Bill 2011 will strip powers from the IRC, change 100 years of conciliation and arbitration practices and provide a ceiling on wages and conditions based on Government policy alone.

I’ve just come back to the office after attending the rally supporting public sector workers and their unions outside Parliament House. What a colourful rally - described by Unions NSW's Mark Lennon as "the biggest union rally in Macquarie Street in twenty years" - not a drop of rain and even a bit of blue sky.

This is an issue that doesn't just affect public sector employees - it's bad enough for them because many of them would have voted for this new Government because they were so sick of the cronyism, murkiness, and stench of the last lot. 

But for everyone else, what a disappointment that on gaining office they moved immediately to change how industrial relations has been managed for public sector employees for more than a century. And something so dramatic that they obviously chose not to make their plans public as an election policy.

But this affects everyone who had a hope for integrity in politics and government policy-making based on facts, evidence and not just ideology and antagonism. Worse than WorkChoices in many ways.

The Government cannot demonstrate that increases awarded by the Industrial Relations Commission had blown out budgets, nor that those increases have been provided without the normal rigorous and exhausting examination that the Commission normally provides.  We know, because we have run cases in the Commission, that it is a difficult task to arbitrate a successful case if you don't have evidence, witnesses and persuasion on your side.

For a new government committing itself to openness and transparency, it is a very poor first step.

depa will support action by public sector unions and unions nationally to expose this dirty work. The Industrial Relations Commission has never been stripped of their powers in the way proposed by this legislation in its 100 years history by any government and particularly not by government that kept its proposals secret because, had they been public, it would have challenged their ability to be elected.

If this legislation succeeds, and it is scheduled to go back to the Legislative Assembly to be concluded this week, local government will remain the only area of employment operating in the NSW Commission without these inhibitions and impediments to the umpire discharging their legislative and historic role.

Shame, Barry. This is a bad start.

David Mitchell
I'm not sure that it's appropriate to 'Bad Barry' at this point in time, maybe his focus should be else where?? It’s a big job he’s taken on. Suggest keep it simple Barry, 'Barry' being all levels of Gov't. Look at what we're doing and why we are doing it! Set up a 'Task Force' (don't you hate the words) to come back to Gov't with recommendations on ways and means to do things better. Trying to fix 'State/Global Financial Problems by targeting your own employees does not seem to be the way to go, particularly if it appears to be underhanded, out of the blue, conceived behind closed doors etc!
Well said Robbo - 110% correct.

Shame on you Barry.

Why change a system where there was nothing really wrong? Is it to lure more Daily Telegraph readers to the Liberal cause? Why wasn't it mentioned in official policy releases? Why did it take UnionsNSW paid advertisements to alert people to what you might get up to?

Bad start indeed.

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