STRIKE! STRIKE! STRIKE!

As you may have read/seen in the media, there is a strike planned for next Thursday (17 July) for CityRail. I post this as my own opinion only.

As we’ve spoken about on Erk Pod before, there are a series of wage claims of NSW public servants currently going on because a lot of the (what I call) Enterprise Lack of Bargaining Agreements have expired or they are about to. As an aside, the agreements used to be known as Enterprise Bargaining Agreements but are now officially known as Enterprise Agreements. What is supposed to happen is that the Management and the Union gets together, debate what pay rises can be given, what conditions need to be changed (for whatever reason) and then a figure is reached (eventually!) and then it is decided. Of course it is a lot more complicated than that but that is it in a basic nutshell.

Anyhoo, in previous EA’s, the base figure that is usually achieved is about 4% a year for the life of the agreement (or it works out to be roughly 4% a year). However on this occasion, the NSW Treasurer Michael Costa (otherwise known as Dr Evil, if you’ve seen Austin Powers, you’ll see why) has decided that for front line staff such as myself, firefighters, police, teachers, nurses etc, we are only worthy of 2.5% per year unless there is increases in productivity. So the Government base rise is 2.5%. If more is wanted, there has to be some demonstrated savings.

One major factor in the whole thing is the cost of living and inflation. The official government determined inflation rate is hovering around 4%. However if you’ve filled your car up with fuel or purchased anything from the supermarket lately or are buying property with interest rates continually going up, you’ll know that 4% is a drop in the ocean and a lot less than the real inflation figures.

So what the Government is asking people like me to do is to effectively take a pay cut. If the pay rise is 2.5% and inflation is running at 4%, you’ll see how people can feel like they are behind the 8 ball.

So what’s happening? Who have agreed and who haven’t and what have they achieved?

State Transit bus drivers and more recently nurses have achieved agreements. Police, NSW Fire Brigades, CityRail/RailCorp, Sydney Ferries, NSW Ambulance Service & the Education Department (whatever they are called this week) are among those that I believe have not come to an agreement.

Mind you in the period in between, senior management and the government themselves have received way and above the amount of pay rises that the front line workforce are asking for. And they have done this will seemingly no trade offs required. In some cases, there have been wage increases in between 5% and 25% and this is a major sore point with the front line workers that are required to do the jobs they do.

In my case, what is happening?

While I was on holidays, I received a ballot paper asking me if I was willing to take protected industrial action. In my case, the EA expired several months ago. Under the current system, the way I read it is that to take protected industrial action, we had to have a vote where the possible options have to be listed and if the option isn’t listed, you can’t do it. So in layman terms, there was a range of stop work meeting/strike lengths including 2 hour, 4 hour, 8 hour, 24 hour (1 day), 2 day, 3 days, 2 weeks. That’s not to say that any or all of these options would be taken but if action had to be taken, it would be one of these actions. Also, 7 days prior warning had to be given of any planned action. This of course assumed a majority vote by the members of the union.

The last figure I saw indicated that 95% of those people who voted supported further industrial action. Since then, the union has determined that the date in question will be next Thursday 17 July which is the day that the Pope on a Boat event happens. Needless to say that if this strike happens, it will be a very difficult day for those travelling to/from work and also those involved in WCYM. There are further meetings and hearings going on between the union, management and the government so the strike is not locked in and may be averted.

It will be very interesting to see what happens. WCYM organisers have been promoting public transport as the way to get around for WCYM but if no trains run, the rest of the city will not cope at the level that it does when trains are running.

I’ve been on the job now for 14 years. During that time, we have had very little industrial action with only a couple of half day or less strikes/stop work meetings that I can remember. I can remember as a child some strikes that were a day or longer and I recall reading about longer strikes. However the way things are now, I can not imagine a strike longer than a day happening. Indeed myself and many of my colleagues with less service than I would not even know (or in some cases care) what a strike is all about and can they afford to?

I’ll keep you updated but that is a basic summary of what is going on. All I can say is that I know that the troops are very unhappy.

So what do I believe? I can see both ways about the possible strike. I can see (and do feel) the frustration of front line workers in my organisation and others and I know that the relevant organisations continue to operate thanks to the men and women of the front line doing what they do well. But you can only push a person or a group of people so far before they break. However, I can see the disruption that it would cause, too. And for many of the people that would be disrupted, they won’t be here beyond WCYM so they’ll only see the disruption and it will go world wide. I could type more but I have to get ready for work now.

BREAKING NEWS: As I type this on Tuesday afternoon, Drue reports reading a News Limited article that suggests that the strike for next Thursday MAY be averted. More news from me after work tonight.

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Filed under Work, World Catholic Youth Month

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