LOCAL public servants joined with thousands of their colleagues from around the state on Monday to protest against State Government public service cuts in what they say is just the beginning of a long industrial campaign.
Approximately 50 workers from a range of local departments attended a Public Service Association (PSA) rally at the Roos Club on Monday morning to protest 15,000 public sector job cuts in NSW and the erosion of award conditions.
Queanbeyan PSA delegate Rissie Martin said many crucial support staff in education, health and other departments would lose their jobs as a result, and the community would suffer a drop in services as a result.
"The biggest points for us are the increasing job cuts. They're up to 15,000 job cuts and that can't be absorbed in a metro region, so once you start bringing job cuts into the country, there's a huge ripple effect. If they took 100 jobs out of Queanbeyan, what does that mean for the services in this area?" Ms Martin said.
"It's also about the erosion of our award and conditions. We're actually quite happy to be public servants. We work hard, we're accountable for what we do, we're passionate about what we do, and we provide services for members of our community.
"We're fearful of those cuts to our conditions leading to privatisation, which ends up meaning that it's not about savings in productivity: it becomes about looking for ways to make more profit, and outsourcing to non-government sector," she said.
Workers at 48 PSA rallies across the state endorsed a motion calling on the Government to halt job cuts in the public sector, restore the power of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission to award wage rises without a 2.5% wage cap and repeal the most recent Workers' Compensation legislation.
Nurses at Queanbeyan Hospital also protested the Government cuts on Monday, using their lunch hour to rally outside the hospital.While nurses are protected from the cuts, union delegate Leonie Keen said they were rallying in support of ageing, disability and homecare workers.
"We must resist these cuts or the O'Farrell Government will use the precedent to attack all public health service nurses and midwives," she said.
"They want to abolish annual leave loading by cutting the entire clause from the award, they want to cut penalty rates by restricting the definitions of shift workers, and they want to cut annual leave, which is just not on."
The NSW Teachers Federation also leant its support to the campaign on Monday, and around 20 staff from local schools attended the rally.
State Treasurer Mike Baird said the PSA response was disappointing and the Government was responding to a difficult economic position.
"It's very disappointing that the Public Service Association decided to ignore the independent ruling by the Industrial Relations Commission and proceed with industrial action today," Mr Baird said.
"Quite frankly, the decision to inconvenience the public through this disruption of public service is completely unwarranted.
"The NSW Government is paying a minimum 2.5 per cent wage increase which is currently above inflation. This is both fair for public servants and affordable for the State.
"NSW is in an incredibly difficult economic position. Since we came to Government, NSW is receiving $2.5 billion less each year. That $2.5 billion is equivalent to the wages of 20,000 teachers.
"We must bring public service wages under control so that we continue to deliver vital services and infrastructure for the people of this State, both now and in the future," he said.
However Ms Martin said Monday's rally was just the beginning of the PSA's campaign against the O'Farrell Government public sector cuts.
"This is the beginning of an industrial campaign for our members. We'll be going back to members who couldn't make it today…and asking them to come and support us even though it means inconvenience to the public for which we're regretful, but we need to be able to say to our local member Mr [John] Barilaro that his support is impacting on his community."
Local member John Barilaro was also contacted for a response to this story but hadn't responded by time of print.