By Chris Latham
PERTH — On November 27, public servants escalated their campaign for a new certified agreement (CA) with a 24-hour stoppage.
The government attempted to put off the strike by making a late offer on November 25. Community and Public Sector Union/Civil Service Association (CPSU/CSA) branch secretary Toni Walkington told Green Left Weekly that the offer was a "last-minute stunt" which did "not resolve the issues of workload, job security and incentives for people to work in regional areas. Those issues ultimately affect community services and the quality of services to the public."
Premier Geoff Gallop's Labor government has dismissed the strike as a dismal failure, claiming that only 700 workers participated. The CPSU/CSA claims that 7000 workers participated in the strike action with services stopped or reduced in 20 sections of the public service.
In the centre of Perth, five pickets were held with the largest being outside the state parliament. The union had requested that MPs not cross the line. However, following a directive from Gallop, most Labor MPs either crossed the picket line or entered parliament before 8.30 am when the picket started.
Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union state secretary Kevin Reynolds told the November 28 West Australian that the CFMEU would not support the re-election of any ALP MP who crossed the picket line. He called on other unions to do the same.
The government's arrogance and intransigence can only strengthen the resolve of public servants. When the city picket lines converged on the government's ministerial offices at Governor Stirling Tower, Walkington told the gathered unionists that while in opposition, "Gallop had said he valued the work of the public service... Well, Geoff, you haven't done that, you have offered us the crumbs after you have made an agreement with the police."
The government is rapidly developing an image of intransigence towards workers' conditions in order to protect its budget surplus and subsidise business development in the state.
With more and more public sector workers enterprise agreements and CAs expiring, the government faces growing industrial unrest. As a result, the employing class is getting worried about the future of the government. The November 22 Financial Review outlined its concerns over what it sees as the bogging down of the government agenda and growing community opposition with an "almost daily queue of protests outside Parliament House".
From Green Left Weekly #564
Wednesday, December 3, 2003
By Chris Latham