HUNDREDS OF workers rallied across NSW on July 30 against the NSW government’s attempt to cap public sector pay rises at 2.5 per cent. Public sector workers from the PSA, AWU and FBEU were well represented at the Sydney rally, with strong support from building industry unions.

Workers also rallied in Newcastle (outside Treasurer Michael Costa’s office) and in Wollongong and Nowra. Even the police supported the action, refusing to serve minor fines for a day.

Speakers, including representatives of the NSW Teachers Federation, PSA and John Robertson from Unions NSW, emphasised that the 2.5 per cent offer was effectively a pay cut, with latest inflation figures running at close to 4.5 per cent.

“The Premier promised no cuts,” PSA National Parks member Arthur Willis, who travelled to attend the rally from the Snowy Mountains, told Solidarity. “I stood up with him in Sydney Town Hall when we had a big rally there supporting the re-election of the state Labor government [in March 2007].

“We were promised no cuts and 2.5 pay rise is a cut. If you live in the country, everything costs more, such as fuel. It’s not fair for the younger workers coming into National Parks, especially workers trying to feed a family. We strongly supported Labor in its re-election. We’re just extremely disappointed.”

Roads and Traffic Authority delegate (AWU) at St. Mary’s Maintenance Depot, Robert Dunne, told Solidarity, “The government is shitting all over the workers who voted it in. It’s not good enough.

“Productivity in the RTA is increasing every year—what else can we do?”

Robert also addressed the rally arguing, “I’m hearing clearly from mass meetings around the state that if the government continues this way we will not vote for them in future elections.”

The rally was organised three weeks after a a meeting of public sector unions voted for action against the state government’s pay offer. The Unions NSW strategy is to pressure Labor to withdraw the offer and re-negotiate on fairer terms.

John Robertson told the rally that a further delegates meeting would be called if Iemma refused to backdown over the pay cap.

“This government is a disgrace,” he told the rally. “During the last state election campaign, Iemma’s slogan was ‘better services for the people of NSW’. You don’t deliver better services if you’re not paying decent wages.”

A Teachers Federation delegate from Liverpool also told the rally, “The government seems to think that our job is between 9 and 3. All the teachers that I know work between 40-50 hours a week.

“We want a pay rise that respects the value of teachers. The government doesn’t recognise this, or the contribution of any public sector workers. We are the backbone of our community. We deserve better.”

By Tom Barnes

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