Change the Rules: Overturn the NSW Public Sector Wages Policy

Federation will campaign with other public sector unions and Unions NSW to overturn the NSW Public Sector Wages policy and restore the right of public sector workers to pursue wage claims in the Industrial Relations Commission unfettered by Government policy, Annual Conference determined on Monday.

The rules governing public sector wages in NSW have capped wage growth at 2.5 per cent for public sector workers unless working conditions are traded off for higher wages. The NSW Industrial Relations Commission is prevented from providing salary increases based on workers demonstrating increased work value. “These rules must be changed,” Delegates state in their Annual Conference decision, “Change the Rules”.

Delegates encouraged Federation members to sign up as volunteers for the ACTU’s Change the Rules campaign — which seeks “more secure jobs and better pay” — at Joining this movement for change will allow members to be directly involved in a range of local and other action in addition to their support of the Fair Funding Now! and Stop TAFE Cuts campaigns.

Deputy President Joan Lemaire told Annual Conference a part-time TAFE teacher had been employed in what should have been a permanent position because her work had remained the same, but they kept changing the position name to avoid employing her permanently. She said TAFE will employ two people at 15 hours each rather than allow one teacher to work more than 20 hours (which would allow them to be classified as a temporary teacher who would then be able to apply for permanent work after three years).

The Annual Conference decision from the debate notes “insecure work impacts on income, quality of life, conditions, entitlements and rights of the workers”. The Change the Rules campaign seeks a legislated definition of casual work, which would allow casual workers who in effect are holding permanent positions, to transfer to a permanent position after six months.

Ms Lemaire noted women still don’t have pay equity and the situation is even worse when it comes to superannuation. She said, on average, men will have $197,000 in their superannuation balance on retirement compared to $104,000 for women, which is almost half the retirement income of men.

“We’ve got to change the rules about superannuation to benefit the poor, not the rich,” she added.

Equity in terms of pay and superannuation are key elements of the Change the Rules campaign.

Workers must be able to be active in, and have access to, the support of their union, Delegates assert in the Annual Conference decision.

Ms Lemaire pointed out that the Fair Work Act puts many restrictions and limitations on how unions can organise and take collective action. She said we want to have a system that allows organisers to recruit, to organise and support collective action. “This system must provide union rights that are consistent with the International Labour Organisation Conventions.”