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Education - What are the PSA's priorities?





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On 17 June 2003 the government announced a restructure of the Department of Education and Training and TAFE with around 1,000 job losses. About 650 positions have been scheduled for deletion by DET so far. Through industrial action and the threat of action organised by delegates some positions have been won back, but not many. About 200 voluntary redundancies have been taken up so far, about 170 of these coming from PSA covered jobs.

Last year Central Council was informed by the Executive on two occasions that there had been an in principle agreement with the Department of a new award covering school assistants and senior school assistants to be worth about $70 million. This positive outcome was the result of the Department inviting the union to participate in a Schools Assistants and Senior School Assistants Review over a 4 year period from 2000.

At the time DET and TAFE members demanded that a similar amount of effort should be made by the PSA Executive on behalf of members campaigning against job cuts, worth a saving to Treasury of about $70 million, as announced by Minister in Parliament. Some delegates believe this is a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul. By all means pay Paul but lets not be complicit in robbing Peter! This leaves the union leadership open to accusations of favouritism. This report comments on the actions of the current PSA leadership faction.

The April/May 2004 Red Tape informed us that the School Assistants Review will be worth only $42 million over the next 2 years. Further, we were informed the PSA has written to the Department "setting out minimum conditions that must be met before the offer will be considered". One of the conditions listed is that "that this is an interim proposal pending the outcome of ongoing discussions" (Red Tape p3).

Obviously the union wants the other $30 million and that is perfectly reasonable under the circumstances. What is unreasonable is the contrast in activity by the same union leadership when it comes to another section of our education membership.

Again the question arises why all the effort on one side of Education and on the other side there have been constant complaints from delegates about obstruction by the PSA Executive including:

1. Contrary to Rule 26 of the PSA Rules, separate meetings have been held between senior PSA officials and government and Department officials without delegates attending. The outcomes of these meetings were not properly reported (if at all) to delegates and members. At least two of these meetings have been confirmed by DET management after questioning by delegates at lower level meetings attended by delegates.

When senior officers were questioned about these meetings the responses were evasive, contradictory and unsatisfactory. This also applies to known regular scheduled meetings between senior PSA officials and senior DET officials and the Minister. There's no report back and little or no opportunity to contribute agenda items by delegates. At only two of these regular meetings were delegates able to force their way into the PSA contingent.

2. Obstructing delegates from holding their usual meetings designed to formulate plans for action to defend jobs. Delegates have requested weekly Steering Committee teleconferences and a face to face meeting. In 2004 there have been very few allowed. Even the scheduled 4 June full DET and TAFE Advisory Group quarterly meetings have been refused, a Senior Industrial Officer says “it is postponed”.

3. Senior officials writing letters in November 2003 to the Department agreeing to certain procedures in the restructure contrary to the wishes of the members and with no reference to the delegates Steering Committee which was charged by Central Council with the responsibility of leading the PSA campaign against the restructure and job losses.

4. Resolutions for Industrial action in defence of jobs carried by the Steering Committee have been ignored or overruled by the Executive.

5. In the middle of this restructure the long standing TAFE Industrial Officer is being forced to move against her will to another section of the PSA. Another 4-500 jobs are at risk in TAFE over the next 6 months. This clearly amounts to the second instalment of the government’s $70 million DET ‘savings’ as outlined one year ago in Parliament.

One has to ask why all the positive effort on only one side of the Department? All power to those 2 parts of the Schools membership included in the Review, although all of SAS have been under resourced and under paid for years not just the front office staff.

On the other side of the same body of PSA membership its an entirely different story. Some delegates think the current PSA leadership is favouring a section of membership that it believes will vote for them while allowing job cuts to a section of the membership which will vote for stronger candidates. PSA Progressives, the Better Deal Team, say all members should be defended and receive equal service. It is never acceptable to sacrifice members for political advantage or self advancement.

Progressive PSA brings together rank and file trade union activists in the Public Service Association of New South Wales and the CPSU (SPSF Branch).

We work for

  • improved and more equitable pay
  • greater job security
  • a democratic and strong union