NSW unions are again locked in battle with the state Labor government over privatisation. With the government accelerating its planned sell-off of prisons, members of the Public Service Association (PSA) were set to strike and rally outside NSW Parliament on Tuesday April 2 as Solidarity went to press. They were to be joined by unionists from the Maritime Union, United Services Union (USU), AMWU, NSW Teachers Federation and other unions.
The NSW government raised the ire of union and community members with a secret nighttime transfer of prisoners out of Cessnock jail, which is slated for privatisation alongside Parklea prison. Over 110 prisoners were moved out, without any forewarning of prison staff. Nurses at Windsor jail, destination of many relocated prisoners, complained that by filling it without warning the government had created unsafe conditions.
The union coalition remains opposed to the state government’s revived power privatisation plans as well as privatisations scheduled for ferries and other government services and assets.
The NSW government has begun looking for potential buyers of the state’s electricity retail providers, which will be sold together with partial control of the generators.
John Robertson, former head of Unions NSW, now the Minister for Corrective Services responsible for pushing through prison privatisation, stated that the nighttime actions were different to the MUA lockout of 1998 because “there were no balaclavas or rottweilers.”
Ironically, John Robertson led the union resistance last year against power privatisation. He now defends privatisation, saying he has had a “frontal lobotomy” on the issue. The new head of Unions NSW, Mark Lennon, has held back from fully backing the fight against privatisation.
Now the “independent” pricing authority of NSW is seeking a 20 per cent hike in retail electricity prices. This is most likely an attempt to sweeten the tender in the face of the global downturn and the difficulties for potential purchasers in raising loans.
Everyone should be moving motions against privatisation of electricity, prisons and other public services in their union, Labor or Greens branch. This will build pressure on union and Labor party leaders to organise serious protest action.
The Greens MLC John Kaye is leading opposition to privatisation in Parliament, but the government does not need parliamentary approval to complete the sell-off of electricity retailers and prisons. With both the Labor government and the Liberal opposition backing privatisation pressure from outside parliament will again be key in stopping these sell-offs.
Visit www.stopthecelloff.org.au
By John Morris

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