Unions fear no wage increase and job cuts

Treasurer Peter GutweinPUBLIC sector unions fear a proposed one-year wage freeze for the state service’s 30,000 workers will not result in reduced job losses.

The Community and Public Sector Union yesterday met Treasurer Peter Gutwein about the temporary wage pause being considered by the government.

The move is estimated to save up to $50 million over 12 months – the equivalent of about 500 full-time employees, but CPSU acting secretary Mat Johnston said the Treasurer declined to give a guarantee that job losses would be reduced by that number.

The Liberals promised to cut 500 public sector positions over two years before the election, but in June revealed savings equivalent to 1000 extra job cuts would have to be found because the budget bottom line was worse than first thought.

After yesterday’s meeting, Mr Johnston said it appeared the wage freeze was “a foregone conclusion”.

“I’ve certainly left with the impression that there are no other significant options being actively considered,” Mr Johnston said.

Mr Gutwein said no final decisions had been made and described the meeting with the CPSU as “constructive and open”.

“We want to save as many of the 1000 job losses Labor and the Greens had embedded in the budget,” Mr Gutwein said.

He said a wage pause was proposed by former premier David Bartlett in 2009.

“It has been used successfully by the private sector, including Tasmanian-based companies Norske Skog and Pacific Aluminum, to contain costs and retain workforce levels.”

Mr Gutwein has told the union that if it has any alternative savings measures to avoid hundreds of job losses, it should present them to the government.

New legislation would be required to overwrite the terms of the enterprise bargaining agreement struck last year, which entitles public servants to annual 2 per cent pay rises.

Mr Johnston said there was no guarantee the government would not also target penalty rates, shift loading and other allowances at the same time.

“In some ways this is worse than WorkChoices because what it does is put a nail in the coffin for collective bargaining,” he said.

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