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Public Sector Workers Fight For Job Security With Industrial Action

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Ned K. 

Non nursing  support service  workers in South Australian public hospitals are leading a protracted struggle for job security.  In 2014 the Weatherill Labor Government reversed its security of tenure policy for all public sector salaried and weekly paid workforce of in excess of 50,000 workers.

Support service workers perform essential services such as cleaning, theatre orderly, emergency wards entries and food services for patients. A key demand in their enterprise bargaining negotiations which commenced last year was for no more privatisation or contracting out, no forced redundancies and maintenance of the voluntary redundancy packages which were capped at 116 weeks until June last year when the government change in policy slashed the cap to 52 weeks!

The Weatherill Government used the age old tactic of divide and conquer to get runs on the board with its new policies which effectively extend the ever present job insecurity of workers employed by private for profit capitalists.

It successfully negotiated and enterprise agreement with the Public Service Association which legitimized the government's new policies for a measly 2.5% pay increase each year. The Association recommended to the tens of thousands of white collar salaried workers in the public sector that they accept the Agreement because it was the best deal that could be negotiated! Without any leadership urging struggle against these attacks on workers' conditions, the salaried workers voted in favor of the Agreement
Weatherill Government Isolates Its Electoral Supporters.

Perhaps the government thought that the main support services union, United Voice, would roll over too and accept the same deal as the Public Service Association. After all, Weatherill himself was aligned to the same Left ALP faction as the United Voice union.

However all did not go to plan for the government. To its credit, United Voice leadership stuck with the interests of its members and organised thousands of public hospital workers to take escalating industrial action in March and April this year. The escalating action in April included workers walking off the job in the major public hospital, the Royal Adelaide Hospital and taking to the main street outside the hospital with demands for secure jobs.

The government called on the legal arm of the state, the Industrial Commission, to try and force workers to stop their action, but to date this tactic has failed.

The striking workers at the Royal Adelaide Hospital are faced not only with the stripping of security of tenure and forced redundancies, but also the prospect of not being offered employment with Spotless who will be the employer of support service workers in the new Royal Adelaide Hospital in 2016.

That a struggle of this nature by the lowest paid government workers is having to occur under a Labor Government led by a Premier who relied on these workers' union to climb to the top of the state parliamentary ladder to become Premier is not lost in the thoughts of thousands of workers who are essential for healthy public hospital systems
Continuation of determined struggle by these workers is revealing to them who are their friends and who are their enemies. 


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