Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

WA: Unite the public sector to stop Barnett’s attacks

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Western Australian public sector workers in the Community & Public Sector Union/Civil Service Association (CPSU/CSA) voted 71% in favour of holding a 24-hour strike. The CPSU/CSA represents a wide range of public servants throughout WA. This will be the first one day strike organised by the union in 11 years.

By Patrick Murphy, Socialist Party Perth

The industrial action is in response to the Barnett state government offering a mere 7.5% pay rise to the workers over 3 years. At the same time they wanted to remove clauses from the workplace agreement that would allow labour hire companies free reign in the public sector.

The Barnet government has declared war on public servants demanding efficiency cuts, increases in work loads and massive job cuts. All up 7000 jobs have been lost in state public sector in recent years.

In April the three education unions organised a 24-hour strike with community support and a fantastic demonstration where over 22,000 turned up at parliament. This was the biggest demonstration in Perth since the 1990’s. This demonstration has forced the government to put some extra funds into the education budget with an increase of $188 million, however this is still not sufficient to stop an increase in class sizes and cuts to the special needs budgets.

Unfortunately, despite huge amounts of support from education staff and the community, the education unions have not followed this strike up with a campaign of continued action aimed at forcing the government to further retreat.

Similarly the CPSU/CSA leadership have been slow to respond to the government’s attacks. Strike action was pushed by delegates and the membership to fight for decent pay and against trade off’s. The leadership is merely reacting to events.

Since October 2013 it has been clear that the Barnett government has been dragging its feet in negotiations. The union had put forward a claim of a 12% pay rise over 3 years and for more job security. Instead of preparing the membership for action they allowed the government to stall the negotiations.

After receiving their one and only offer of 7.5% and trade off’s the union leadership stumbled into rolling stoppages, as delegates refused to accept the offer.

The anger against the government has increased since the ballot result and discussions are now taking place about the union’s tactics, the use of pickets and how to maximise the strike turnout.

While it is important that the 24-hour strike is a success there is also an urgent need for the union to develop an overall strategy to stop the government gutting the public sector. Linking up with other public sector unions and co-ordinating joint industrial action is the next logical step. Appeals to the community to back the campaign in the interests of defending public services would get a big echo.

The combined force of public sector workers and the community has the potential to defeat the Barnet government. The barrier right now if the lack of political will being shown by the current batch of union leaders. With this being the case it is necessary for delegates and members to come together to work out an alternative strategy.

The Socialist Party urges delegates to campaign for a state-wide public sector union conference in order to unify the different struggles. We need to organise workplace meetings to prepare and plan for the action required. Ultimately we need to move towards generalised public sector strike action in order to stop job losses, end the service cuts and break the government’s wages policy.


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