With the US economy on the way to a recession and interest rates in Australia on the way up again, the Union has written to the Minister for Emergency Services asking that the NSW government not cut our wages. On December 6th the Union wrote explaining that the Reserve Bank has forecast inflation reaching three and a half percent in the near future and asking that the starting point for wage negotiations be just that – three and a half percent for all NSW public servants.
The Union has been conscious of the economic difficulties facing the NSW government and has put forward a position that will stop our wages going backwards in real terms (after inflation has been factored in). At the same time this will allow government to maintain its position on wage increases. This most reasonable claim for a three and a half percent starting point in negotiations will allow us to measure just how fair dinkum the government is in wage negotiations. Should the government rejected the claim after having accepted much bigger increases for politicians, it will be clear that if we don’t want our wages cut we will have no option but to fight.
Since the letter was sent to government ‘Unions NSW’ has resolved to reject the governments offer of 2.5% for all state based public servants. Budget figures have revealed that the government has collected close to $1 billion in taxes over and above its forecast. Crude oil has reached a record high price of US $100 per barrel and as late as Friday (January 4th) two of Australia’s major banks have started pushing up mortgage interest rates.
Prices are on the way up and the NSW government is in the process of pushing wages down for every public servant other than politicians. Recent reports in the media have shown that prices in Australia’s most expensive city are still increasing. Petrol is likely to hit $1.50 per litre and the number of road trips requiring a toll has increase 17 fold since 1996.
If we are to stand any sort of a chance at winning a decent increase in wages we are going to need to know that members are hungry for a real increase in wages. This means that every one of us needs to make the effort to come along to a Union meeting, hear what the leadership has planned, then get out and spread the word. The NSW government doesn’t face election for another three years and isn’t looking to do any favours for its mates in the trade union movement. If we don’t manage to get a decent result out of this round of negotiation we may have a pretty long wait before we get another crack at wage justice.