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INTERVIEW: Tom Lynch on public sector cuts, redundancies and more

THIS morning ABC 936’s Sarah Gillman spoke to CPSU General Secretary Tom Lynch about what’s happening in the public sector.

He spoke about the impacts of cuts across the public sector to services that Tasmanians rely on from Child Protection to WorkSafe.

He addressed  ageism and sexism around the redundancy process and the fallacy that there are no forced redundancies.

Listen to the interview in the sound file below.

Dec 11 2014 Tom Lynch w Sarah Gillman ABC

Interview highlights: Tom Lynch

Cuts: the impacts

The government never had any intention of going through a wage freeze; they were always going to pursue job losses, which was their ideological agenda. That’s what we’re starting to see now and Tasmanians are going to see the impact of that on their services very soon.

We’ve already heard about the cuts to education and the impact their having, and the impact in health but this is across the board and there are a lot of other areas being impacted.

Just this week we’ve started to hear about cuts in the Primary Industries area around resource management. These are the people who look after land conservation and wildlife management … there are significant cuts in there that make it doubtful that they are going to provide the services that they have in the past.

We’ve got cuts to WorkSafe, these are the workplace inspectors that go out and ensure workplaces are safe. We had another tragedy this week, with a death in a workplace…

We’ve seen a massive cut back in Consumer Affairs. So these are cuts that people don’t realise are happening, the services that are provided to them that happen every day to ensure when they are operating as a consumer, that they have a fair go.

One (example) that’s really worrying is the cuts to Child Protection. I’m hearing now there’s going to be a reestablishment of an unallocated list of children at risk – children at risk who cannot be allocated to a Child Protection Worker and are going to have to wait until there’s someone who can deal with their case. That’s just disastrous.

These are definitely frontline jobs; it’s the fallacy of frontline-backline. The area that’s taking the biggest cut is State Growth. These are people who are working with investors and businesses to develop the jobs of the future and to stimulate economic activity so that this state goes forward. To me, that’s incredibly frontline but over 200 jobs are going in there and programs on mass are just being cut.

 

Redundancies

The first approach has been to see if there are people willing to go. The government has what’s called a Workplace Renewal Incentive Program; it also has a voluntary redundancy program.

When they don’t get sufficient numbers there, then they target people, and they say “your job is surplus to requirements?”, and they look around and try to find you a new job. But of course, jobs are being cut in every agency, and if they can’t find them another job in a specified period, that’s usually six months, then they will sack them. Will Hodgman said there would be no forced redundancies – this is a complete broken promise. Will Hodgman ran around this state for two years saying there would be no forced redundancies – he still says there will be no forced redundancies. But if you offer someone a voluntary redundancies and the reject it and then you sack them, that’s a forced redundancy – there’s no argument about it.

I’ve seen specific examples that concern me around ageism and sexism. There has been a lack of process around who gets offered redundancies and how much they get offered. I’ve seen a recent example of someone who’s worked in the public sector for 26 years who accepted a voluntary arrangement. They were offered about a fifth of what they should’ve been entitled to. I believe that was because of her gender.

We’ve had lots of people say to us, I’m 63 and I’m the one that’s being targeted in the workplace and they think I should go. There is no retirement age in Australia and many people live complex lives and have to work into their 70s because they still have mortgages and second families and all sorts of things. It’s just wrong that these people are being targeted to go when they have every right to continue to work, if that’s what they choose to do.

There’s a great deal of uncertainty, there are a lot of people going through voluntary arrangements and they’re happening pretty quickly.

The forced redundancies have been delayed until May or June of next year because of the notice periods required.

The Agencies have been told to do certain things and make decisions in timelines that can’t be complied with if they are going to properly consult with people, if they’re going to go through proper transparent process to ensure they don’t have the ageism and the sexism being applied.

They are being told “no you will have a list of people who are going to be terminated; you will have those lists done so we can be certain that you have those people out the door by the end of this financial year.

 

Right-sized public sector

What the government is achieving at the moment is, it is slowing the economy, and it is driving retail sales down. They will increase unemployment – that is what they will do. Do we need a right-sized public sector? Yes we do but first of all we need to have the debate about what services we provide and what skills we need into the future.

We are not making cuts in any systematic way now. You can tell because the vast majority of the people who are to go are going are people who are putting their hands up to go, so there’s no strategy in this. It’s about getting people out the door and trying to deliver services with the people you have left. It’s the wrong way to go.

 

Morale in the public sector

It’s absolutely atrocious. I’ve represented public sector workers for a long time. We’ve been through plenty of tough times and I’ve never seen it this bad.

It’s the culmination of a year where the government came out and told a lot of lies at the election – they made very specific commitments about things it wouldn’t do and then it went ahead and did every single one of those things. It made pork barrelling election promises that they are now cutting jobs and services to pay for. The wage freeze would’ve only ever have paid for 20% of the savings the government is making this year, the other 80% was to pay for its election promises.

That’s why people are so disappointed – they can’t see how the services are going to be maintained next year with the people who are remaining. That’s causing a great deal of stress. It’s a very sad, very worrying time for Tasmanians in general.

 

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