Public servants protest cuts

Posted on October 18, 2010, 7:07am

PUBLIC service workers fearful of losing their jobs took to the streets of Mount Gambier in protest last Thursday, speaking out about the “pressure and pain” that would be inflicted by more than 3500 job cuts flagged in the state budget.

One chant from around 20 angry public servants from fisheries, SafeWork SA and other government departments called for the treasurer to be sacked, while other messages stated “job cuts will equal service cuts”.

The public service sector faces significant cuts planned in the recent budget, with more than 3750 jobs set to go in the next four years.

Public servants who attended the rally in Mount Gambier were reluctant to comment and feared being identified in the media, with one individual saying “we have to go back to our jobs while we have one”.

One woman attended the rally in her lunch break, joining fellow workers in front of Independent MP Don Pegler’s office on Gray Street.

“It’s already happening as people are losing their jobs — we are calling for our work conditions, agreed on with the government in our enterprise agreement, not to be touched,” she said.

“Now they are in the process of taking away our incentives, our entitlements, so people are discouraged to stay.”

One anonymous protestor said it was anticipated that yesterday the Legislative Council would start debate on a bill for the reduction of long service leave provisions and the removal of annual leave loading for public service workers.

“They are overriding the enterprise agreement in which job security was the number one issue and the government’s promise to protect this was taken in good faith,” he said.

“Many are also now expecting and fearful of the forced redundancies which the government promised would never happen in the public service sector.”

South Australian Treasurer Kevin Foley admitted during the announcement of the budget that the government may have to break its election promise of no forced redundancies.

Another anonymous public servant said she had already been affected by the cuts that had been chiseling away at the public sector over the years.

“I lost my job for the department I was working for here in Mount Gambier and was told that it was due to a round of cuts the department was facing — I was made to reapply and relocate to a similar position in the Barossa Valley,” she said.

“I had to commute over the long distance to see my husband — the further cuts will see a lot more of this.”

She believed the cuts would only cripple the already strained public sector.

“We are already under pressure and understaffed — what will happen is they will make these cuts and realise the public sector cannot operate once these numbers are cut,” she said.

“You have to be there when somebody does leave to see the pressure it puts on the other staff members.”

Others present warned that if job entitlements in the public sector were cut, the private sector would be next.

“We have one lady who works with us owning a private business who has said in response to the cuts that she may consider taking away the entitlements of the staff working in her business,” they explained.

“This erosion of entitlements may see those who have leave loading now finding they are without it tomorrow.”

Public Service Association protests were carried out in other parts of the state yesterday, including Whyalla and Port Lincoln.

See: Borderwatch

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