SITREP No. 12/2011

March 24, 2011

Inside this issue:

  • Check your pay – lump sum payments today
  • A ‘super’ lump sum?
  • The end of the Keneally Government
  • Debus’ monster: RFSA eats parent
  • Koperberg retreats to Toad Hall

Check your pay – lump sum payments made today

All members should today have received their lump sum payment ($500 gross for permanent members and $100 gross for retained) as part of our recent settlement of the 2011 Awards round. This lump sum was negotiated by the Union in lieu of back pay to 24 February 2011. It is worth noting that the current Awards do not expire for another 13 weeks.

Members’ wages will now rise by a further 5% over the next 11 months, with the first 2.5% increase due to take effect on and from 17 June and the second 2.5% eight months later, on 24 February 2012.

A ‘super’ lump sum?

Today’s lump sum payments were made nett of super, meaning that the Department did not add an additional 9% ($45 for permanent members and $9 for retained members) in compulsory employer superannuation contributions. The Department believed that it was not required to pay this additional super on lump sums of this type until yesterday, when the Union cited various tax rulings which support the additional super payment on lump sums of this type. At stake is close to $200,000.

More to follow in Sitrep 13/11.

The end of the Keneally Government

The state election this Saturday is a foregone conclusion, with predictions of the biggest defeat for Labor since the disastrous election of 1932. Forget the pollsters – for a cold, hard, and realistic analysis go to the bookies. Centrebet are paying $1.02 for a Coalition victory. It is almost inconceivable that this time next week Barry O’Farrell won’t be NSW Premier.

In a deeply worrying development there is the very real chance that the Coalition will not only win a massive majority in the lower house, but also in the Legislative Council – the upper house. With a working majority in both houses O’Farrell would be free to introduce anything he wished. And here lies the problem – no one really knows what he wants to do. The last twelve months has seen the Liberals run a small target strategy, keeping their policies as vague as possible and waiting for the Keneally Government to self-destruct. Smart politics. But while we don’t know much detail, it is clear that O’Farrell will be taking a razor to public sector expenditure. The Coalition has already signalled that it will scrap the Fire Service Levy on insurers that has served NSW well for 100 years. It has also confirmed a freeze on RFS staffing and expenditure, so FRNSW can expect no favours.

So how to vote? The Union recommends that all members consider the impact an unfettered Coalition government will have upon our job, and our communities.

The ALP has run NSW for the top end of town for 16 years. In spite of this, they have historically put more resources into the public sector – including the NSWFB – than the Coalition. In opposition they can be expected to publicly stand against Coalition cost cutting.

The Greens are expected to produce their best performance yet. Their IR policy is by far the best of the three major parties, as is their commitment to the public sector.

The best outcome we can hope for is a Legislative Council that can block the most brutal of the public sector cuts that are coming. It is on that basis that I urge all members to consider voting Green or ALP on Saturday. This is not about endorsing one party over another – it is about putting some brakes upon an incoming O’Farrell Government that will, inevitably, attack public services in NSW.

Finally, it is likely that we are facing at least two terms of Coalition rule. If O’Farrell undertakes a reform agenda like Jeff Kennett did in Victoria in the nineties, or Nick Greiner did in NSW in the eighties, we cannot wait for a future change of government to defend our jobs and communities. Come next Monday we need to be ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with other unionists to defend our public sector. If we are not prepared to back up those on the railways, on the ferries, in the schools and the hospitals then who will be left to stand up for us?

Debus’ monster: RFSA eats parent

In yet another own-goal for the ailing NSW Labor machine, the bogus Rural Fire Service Association (RFSA) has turned on the party that helped form it. Cynically set up in the late 1990’s by the then-Minister for Emergency Services, Bob Debus, to control volunteers and act as a counter to the FBEU, the RFSA last week took out full page ads supporting the Coalition. Headed “On election day remember your family’s safety”, the ad purports to compare the policies of both major parties on matters deemed important by the RFSA. The result? 20 ticks for the Coalition but only 8 for Labor and no question marks for the Coalition but 20 queries for Labor.

After 15 years and billions of dollars of misguided patronage from the Carr, Iemma, Rees and Keneally Governments, even we were surprised by the extent to which RFSA has now turned on the ALP. We reap what we sow.

Koperberg retreats to Toad Hall

It would be remiss of the FBEU to allow Phil Koperberg, retiring Labor MP, former RFS Commissioner and lifelong Wind in the Willows fan to slink off into oblivion without mention.

Koperberg deserves full recognition for single-handedly transforming the venerable old bush fire brigade movement in NSW into the overblown and over-hyped PR machine that is today’s RFS – an unrivalled achievement in contemporary public sector empire building. On announcing his decision to not recontest his Blue Mountains seat late last year, Koperberg explained “I’ve simply come to the conclusion that politics is not something I’m particularly good at”. You’re far too hard on yourself Phil. Politics was all you were good at.

Regrettably for Koperberg, his spectacularly unsuccessful one-term parliamentary career was dead on arrival and then went quickly downhill from there. He will not be missed.

Jim Casey
State Secretary



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