You are here

State Service - Wage Negotiations

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 24 August 2022

Tags: Public Service, Wages, Workers Rights

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I will make a brief contribution because I hope to hear from the Treasurer, who certainly did not leap to his feet after Mr O'Byrne's contribution. I am sure Ms White will want to say a few words too.

The Greens support Mr O'Byrne's motion because it is fundamental common sense and it acknowledges that our nurses, firefighters, teachers, child safety workers who are striking today, are the glue that holds our society together every day.

I am certain that every minister in government who works with public servants in their portfolios recognises the quality of the people we have here in the State Service and in our essential services. We often hear government ministers acknowledge the great work of the public servants who work to them and, more importantly, work to the people of Tasmania.

It is important that we do not feed these Tasmanians lip service. There must be evidence of commitment and substantial effort on Government's part to make sure that our state servants, essential services workers, have fair pay, are moving towards pay parity with the mainland, have good, workable conditions, unlike the nurses who have been forced, in a very co ordinated and safe way, to walk off the job because their working conditions have become near impossible. A situation that was bad before COVID 19 is compounded now.

This Government has spot fires going off across the industrial landscape - nurses, firefighters, child safety workers, teachers. I cannot quite get to the bottom of why, except an unwillingness to listen, perhaps. There is deep disappointment and, whether it is true or not, a feeling that they are undervalued by Government, which counts on them in times of crisis and otherwise, but at this point is not showing enough signs of approaching negotiations in good faith.

The Community and Public Sector Union put out an excellent publication, which was launched in this building last week, 100 Plans for a Better State Service. Tasmanians still need a pay rise. I will read into the Hansard what some of the CPSU members, at least, are saying:

It is time for us Tasmanian workers to get the same work agreements as our mainland counterparts. We are needed in the classroom. We are specialists in our field. We break our back and hearts to give the children of the future our best so they can become custodians of this great country.

That is a CPSU member who works in our public schools.

Another member, who works in the Department of Natural Resources and Environment, said:

Sad that we are not respected by the Government and that even keeping up with CPI is such a huge battle. We are all tired, exhausted, and over it with the past few years of COVID 19 related projects and intense workload.

From the Department of Justice:

Our wages are slipping behind other states while they do more to retain and attract their staff. We need parity with the mainland or else Tasmania will be the low wage, high cost state.

Another schools member:

We need to make the awards more consistent in their entitlements. Linking entitlements across all awards would assist. This includes how public holidays are paid for staff who work on them, how leave is accrued, how carers leave can be accessed, et cetera.

We also need to look at models to identify staffing requirements for support staff, instead of relying on successful business cases before additional staff are employed.

In the Child Safety Service, the workers of whom for many years have been savagely under resourced and live with a level of vicarious trauma through their work that I think many people in this place would find hard to fathom and certainly not want to live with. From a Child Safety Service CPSU member:

The past couple of years have been difficult with the pandemic and we have been hit in the hip pocket, as well as mentally and socially. We should be adequately rewarded for doing the hard yards and the Government must not be stingy.

An employee in the Premier's Department:

We live in a world of digital communication and I feel that it should not be up to the employer to tell me whether I need to be sitting at a desk in the office or working from a coffee shop, as long as I am meeting my work obligations.

As we know, the pandemic changed the way we see work and opened our eyes to what is possible. I have heard from a number of people who work in government agencies who are immunocompromised or clinically vulnerable or live with a disability, who have asked if their employer, the secretary, the department, can allow them to work from home and some have got a flat 'no' and for others it has been a battle just to access that right - and I think it is a right - to work safely during a pandemic.

There are mixed signals coming from Government, a government that relies on and knows how reliant it is on quality state servants and people who work in our essential services, and yet for some reason is resistant to sitting down and having those conversations with the representatives of workers in the unions. I am sure there are budgetary challenges for the Government. The pandemic response was extremely expensive. We understand that, but investing in your public servants, investing in the pay and conditions of your essential workers, is a very solid investment.

It has economic and social benefits that are enormous, so we are very comfortable supporting Mr O'Byrne's motion and thank him for bringing it on.