Monday, October 04, 2010

Community fights Labor budget cuts

SA public sector unions and community organisations are continuing their campaign to fight attacks on job security and conditions, including changes to long service leave and holiday leave loading. The video below shows a part of a rally called by the Public Service Association last week. Another rally is to be held this Friday, with yet another planned for October 14.

We reprint also an analysis of the SA Budget by Nick G in the October edition of Vanguard, organ of the CPA (M-L).

SA State Budget Report

Nick G

South Australian Labor’s experiment with outsourcing its Budget preparations has failed the test of community interest, according to SA public sector unions.

Treasurer Kevin Foley set up a Sustainable Budget Commission (SBC) in June 2009 to identify public sector programs and services that could be cut.

The Commission has been chaired by Geoff Carmody, a former Federal Treasury official who co-founded Access Economics and campaigned strongly against the Rudd Government’s abortive Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and in favour of a carbon consumption-based emissions trading scheme. The latter was designed to reduce carbon costs to Australian businesses by transferring costs, for example for coal, to places of consumption, largely offshore.

Carmody was assisted by Bruce Carter, Jennifer Westacott and the heads of the Departments of Premier and Treasury. Monsignor David Cappo, the state’s Social Inclusion Commissioner was thrown in to add a gloss of superficial decency to the process.

Who are Carter and Westacott? Carter was the head of WorkCover SA who presided over savage cuts to injured workers’ entitlements before becoming Chairman of the SA Economic Development Board and the Olympic Dam Task Force. He’s a bean counter and one of Rann’s favourite intermediaries between SA government and business.

Westacott is a senior partner at multinational giant KPMG which sells financial services and taxation advice to governments and the big end of town.

Foley: let private sector dictate public sector terms

Normally we would describe capitalist governments as mere executive committees of the bourgeoisie; in this case, government has created its own budgetary executive of bourgeois elements.

Normally we would see the social democratic variant of capitalist government protecting and extending wages and working conditions in the public sector to gain some leverage over private employers as a trade-off for the electoral support of the extended working class.

However, SA Treasurer Foley has inverted that relationship too, justifying the formation of the SBC in these terms: “Workers at big firms such as Holdens have seen their salaries cut as shifts are reduced, workers in other industries have seen their pay frozen and unfortunately other workers have lost their jobs. I don’t think it is unreasonable for the public sector to show restraint and reflect what is the reality for many South Australian workers.”

In other words, for Foley and the SBC, it is appropriate that the private sector dictates the terms and conditions for public sector employment. In so doing, it attacks private sector workers by depriving them of any comparative arguments for increases in wages and conditions.

One union official commented to Vanguard that “When Foley established the SBC, he linked it to the plight of workers at big firms like Holdens”.

“This was his justification for reducing services offered by the public sector and for attacking the wages and conditions of public service workers.

“However, SA has been a star performer in a strong and resilient Australian economy. Holdens, for example, is expanding production and adding shifts.

“By Foley’s own logic, we should be enjoying an expansionary and stimulus-oriented budget.

“Instead,” she said, “we have a budget in which the community coughs up to pay for further concessions to the big end of town.”

The Property Council of SA’s Justin Hazell, described the Budget as “a big win for the investment sector”. Business SA’s Peter Vaughan endorsed Foley’s strategy, saying “This is an essential move in reflecting the same conditions as those faced by the private sector.”

However, SA Council of Social Services’ Ross Womersley slammed the Budget for attacking low income earners generally. He pointed to motor vehicle licence and registration increases, rising public transport costs, a 25% increase in TAFE fees (already the highest in the country), and the abolition of adult re-entry to schools for persons 21 years of age and older.

And the Commissioner for Social Inclusion? He distanced himself from the SBC’s recommendations and the government’s budgetary decisions, saying that he could not support measures that reduce or diminish services available to vulnerable and disadvantaged persons or that diminish the social fabric of South Australia.

Just to completely endear themselves to South Aussie workers, politicians from both major parties spent budget day rushing through legislation that saw their own rate of superannuation increase from 9% to 15.4%!

Meanwhile, SA public sector unions arranged to meet to discuss a combined response to the issues of job security, long service leave and holiday leave loading for their members.

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