HSUWA analysis of State Government's public sector cuts, redundancies and salary-rise cap

Friday 14 Jun 2013

The Barnett Government has announced a number of changes affecting public sector workers in Western Australia, including HSUWA members.

Central to their plan is the slashing of up to 1,200 public sector jobs by both voluntary and forced redundancies. The Premier has been quoted as saying there are no 'jobs for life'.  No detail has been released about the compulsory redundancy provisions.  What we already know is that the public health system is already struggling under an ever-increasing workload and any cuts to staff will have to affect services.  The system is barely coping with the biggest restructure of healthcare WA has ever seen, with Fiona Stanley Hospital, PMH, and the new Midland Hospital.

Union Secretary Dan Hill has been speaking publicly on this issue - see here.

The government has announced further savings by introducing an enforced cap on the public sector wages bill and limiting wage increases to inflation only.

Our analysis of the government's announcement can be found at the end of this article. Please take the time to read this and if you have any questions remaining unanswered please send us an email to union@hsuwa.com.au.

Salary Cap

The Barnett Government is following Queensland by seeking to cap pay increases to inflation only.  If it was based on inflation in State Government taxes and charges it would be fine, but they want to use the headline inflation (currently 2.4 per cent).

Worse, the total wages bill for Health is proposed to be capped at this year's budget plus inflation.  Nurses already have a 14% pay increase and doctors get their agreement in before the new policy starts (funny that Dr Hames).  What does this mean?  Will it mean that in order to pay for the nurses' increase which is above inflation the Department will have to cut staff and services?  Which services, Dr Hames?

This comes after the 54 per cent plus increases paid to Colin Barnett's advisors, people like media chief Dixie Marshall.  It seems the wages of spin-doctors are worth so much more than frontline healthworkers.

The delayed State budget in August is unlikely to have any good news for Health; we hear the health budget will be cut in real terms and will not cover growth in population or demand.

On the up side from 1 July 2013 members will start receiving the final 4 per cent salary increase won in your 2011 EBA.  We have started working on the next EBA and your next pay increase.

Research around the world shows that: the more employees who are union members = better bargaining power = a bigger pay increase. In times like these we need to encourage everyone to join the Union and join the fight for job security and fair wages and conditions.

If you want better pay in 2014, then ask a friend to join the HSUWA, or join if you are not a member yet.

KEY POINTS

From the government's media release we know that:

  • The Government employs around 150,000 employees (we think that means FTE not persons)
  • Up to 1,000 redundancies are to be offered. (This is 0.67 of 1 per cent of the total workforce)
  • The wages policy is to cap salaries at 2012/13 levels plus CPI (previously min of CPI plus up to the projected wage price index for WA, which delivered much higher wage outcomes).
  • Agencies also have their salary budget restricted to 2012/2013 financial year levels plus CPI, which is currently 2.4 per cent. (March Quarter CPI for Perth.)
  • Please note: Our increase of 4% from 1 July 2013 is locked in and will go ahead. It is the increases for our next EBA that are under threat.
  • The WA IR Act is to be amended so that the Commission is expected to take into account government wages policy for all agreements that expire after 1 November 2013. (From this we are assuming the new wages policy comes into effect from 1 November 2013.)
  • The redundancy/job cuts policy is expected to save $75 million a year.
  • The wages policy cut is expected to save over $2 billion over the next 4 years (500 million a year) across the whole of government.
  • The real cut is in the wages policy and it is the one that is going to hurt our members most and for years to come.
  • The temporary increase in voluntary redundancy benefits is to increase the notice period from 12 weeks to 20 weeks, making for a maximum payout of 72 week's salary.
  • Involuntary redundancy will be introduced.
  • The government says involuntary redundancy will be used as a last resort
  • Forced redundancies will only be invoked where employees have been given the opportunity to take a more generous voluntary redundancy package and other measures to redeploy staff has been exhausted.
  • The above gives the impression that the involuntary package will be less than the voluntary package (We assume it will not include the temporary additional notice payment). If this is the case the threat of a reduced forced redundancy will act as a threat to those offered a voluntary redundancy.  In effect, if you don't go, you may be forced to go and you will be paid less.
  • Jobs in the public sector can no longer be considered as "life long tenure" (Barnett's words).
  • Redundancies are to be targeted at underemployed and surplus staff in non-core areas (If that were true, no one from health would be made redundant, unless they are already on a redeployment list).
  • There are currently 76 registered redeployees across the WA Public Sector (This includes some HSUWA members).
  • The enhanced voluntary redundancy package will come into effect on July 1 2013 and will close on December 31 2013.
  • The government claims the measure does not amount to a recruitment freeze, notwithstanding that they have put a cap on the salaries budgets of all government agencies. (Seems to be saying it is intended to get rid of pockets of underemployment within government - but your guess is as good as ours on that).

 

This is the extent of the information available to the HSUWA at this stage. As further information becomes available, we will update members.

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