The Guardian June 14, 2000


Victorian state employees threaten industrial action

by Peter Mac

As we reported in last week's Guardian, Victorian primary and 
secondary school teachers are considering taking industrial action to back 
up the log of claims they have lodged with the State Labor Government.

During the Kennett years Victorian school teachers suffered an effective 
salary loss which will now put them about 20 per cent behind their 
counterparts in NSW.

As compensation for this and other losses they are now claiming a 30 
percent pay rise to be phased in over three years.

However, Premier Bracks last week stated publicly that he thought that a 
mere 3.5 percent increase would be appropriate for State teachers.

The primary and secondary school teachers have now been joined by other 
state employees.

Those now contemplating industrial action include two of the most exploited 
sectors of the workforce, nurses and kindergarten teachers.

The kindergarten teachers have now lodged a claim for a 15 percent pay 
rise, to be introduced over three years, and the nurses are seeking an 
eight percent annual pay rise, with the intention of gaining 24 per cent 
over three years.

The State's public servants, whose ranks have been decimated and pay 
effectively sliced over the last ten years, have also joined the fray, with 
a claim of 12 per cent to offset the effects of the GST. (Although the GST 
will be collected by the Federal Government, it will be go direct to the 
States. ALP State Governments made no attempt to defeat the introduction of 
the new tax, and indeed welcomed it, despite its obvious detrimental 
effects on the effective incomes of working people.)

The Bracks Government has refused to negotiate with the kindergarten 
teachers on the issue of a pay increase.

It is now clear that Bracks and the ALP shadow cabinet have made little 
allowance to compensate for lost salaries and conditions under the Kennett 
Government, and are now quite prepared to act like their predecessor in 
rejecting pay claims by such groups.

The leader of the Victorian conservative Coalition, Dr Denis Napthine, 
endorsed Premier Bracks' meagre allowance for compensating state employee 
losses, noting that Bracks had only allowed 3.5 per cent for increases in 
public sector wages over the coming four years.

Dr Napthine warned the Government against making more generous deals with 
unions.

He indicated where his true sympathies lay by noting with horror that 
anything in excess of the 3.5 percent limit would threaten the introduction 
of state government tax cuts for big business as previously promised in the 
Bracks Government's first budget.

It's now up to the Premier Bracks as to whether he will act in the 
interests of the business sector over which Dr Napthine has expressed so 
much concern, or whether he will act to support the working people whose 
rights he so earnestly championed during the Kennett years.

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