Sue Walsh's speech opening the 2012 PSA Women's conference - Public Service Association

Sue Walsh’s speech opening the 2012 PSA Women’s conference

2012 PSA Women’s Conference

Opening speech from
PSA President Sue Walsh

Thank-you Norma.

Before I commence I too would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land, the Gadigal people of the EORA nation and pay tribute to their elders both past and present.


It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all here this morning to our 2012 Women’s Conference.

This year’s conference theme is Supporting Better Public Services, and comes at a time when the NSW Government is attacking our rights at work and slashing public service jobs and services.

Today’s speakers will address these issues. They are:

• Marian Baird, Professor of Employment Relations, University of Sydney
• Kate Lee, Spokesperson for “Families Against Disability Discrimination”;
• Mark Lennon, Secretary, Unions NSW;
• Tomorrow you will hear from Jill Biddington who is a Panel Member on the Independent Inquiry into Insecure Work;
• Emma Maiden, Unions NSW;
• and also some great PSA women members.

I would also like to acknowledge the members of the Women’s Council Steering Committee. They are:

• Chair, Linda Barclay-Hales
• Secretary, Nicole Scott
• Vice Chair, Wendy Hurry
• Assistant Secretary, Jeanette Crawford
• Committee Members, Fiona Cameron, Natalie Howes, Valarie McKinnon and Judith Stott.

Women’s Council is assisted in its operations by the Women’s Unit consisting of the Women’s Industrial Officer, Anne Kennelly and administrative officer Eve Ivy.


Women’s Council is a body of approximately 70 Women’s Councillors elected by all women members of the PSA.

The object of Women’s Council is to promote the interests of women members of the Association and to consider any question which affects women members. In the past Women’s Council has achieved:

• Improved workplace rights for breastfeeding mothers,
• Workplace rights for victims of domestic violence – including additional five days paid special leave,
• The first pay equity win for librarians and archivists employed in the NSW public sector,
• Best paid parental leave in the country, and
• Purchased leave.

Now the O’Farrell Government wants to take away our conditions of employment that support women being in the paid workforce. The PSA is focusing on supporting the PSA campaign to protect our hard won conditions that help us to balance both work and carer’s responsibilities.


It has been nearly two years since the election of the O’Farrell Government. During that time the State Government proposed to take away our conditions of employment, cut workers compensation benefits, slashed public sector jobs and services, diminished job security and attacked the rights of unions.


Barry O’Farrell’s record on the treatment of women since coming to office is appalling.

Since becoming Premier, Barry O’Farrell has called Labor Deputy Leader, Linda Burney a ‘hooker’, and compared Carmel Tebbutt to a ‘whining puppy’.

The PSA deplores the use of sexist comments in any workplace and condemns the Premier for his poor example. However, it seems Mr O’Farrell’s attacks on women do not end in Parliament. They also extend to Government policy and their industrial relations agenda, turning the clock back for women in NSW.

Barry O’Farrell’s attacks on women include:

• Removing the requirement that 50 per cent of all new appointments to Government Boards and Committees be women.

• Forcing out seven senior women in the NSW public Service.

• Undermining the role of the Office for Women’s Policy by moving it from the Department of Premier and Cabinet to the Department of Family and Community Services.

• Not funding equal pay for social and community service workers, the majority of whom are women.

• Proposing to attack the workplace rights of carers and women employed in the NSW public service by proposing to wind back provisions for carers, flexible work practices, tightening rules around parental leave to exclude long-term foster carers, surrogate parents and kinship care arrangements and by winding back domestic violence leave provisions to be either “unpaid or paid”

Public Service Conditions under attack

On the 6 June 2012 the NSW Government filed an application with the Industrial Relations Commission of NSW for a new Crown Employees (Public Service Conditions of Employment) Award.

The application proposes to radically cut many conditions of employment that the PSA has won for its members over the years. Not surprisingly there is nothing in the Government’s proposal to improve conditions of employment for NSW public servants.
The proposal ranges from cuts to many allowances, to reducing workplace flexibility for pubic servants with children and other carers’ responsibilities.
The NSW Government purports to be an employer that encourages equity and diversity in its workforce in order to attract the best people. However, the Government’s proposals will only make it harder for women, those with children and other carers’ responsibilities to pursue a career in the NSW public service.

Other conditions of employment that the government wants to cut include:

• Cutting penalty payments for shift workers;
• Cutting allowances for workers in remote locations;
• The ability to work from home;
• Cutting pay by removing leave loading; and
• Abolition of Family and Community Services Leave.

The Government is proposing that local flexible working arrangements are to be no longer subject to the conditions of the award. In addition, it is proposed that the requirement to consult with the PSA and within the terms of the Flexible Work Practices, Policy and Guidelines be removed.

Women make up 58% of the NSW public sector; these proposed cuts will unfairly disadvantage women workers in NSW.

The Crown Employees (Public Service Conditions of Employment) Award is the parent NSW public sector Award.
Movements in this Award historically have flowed on to all the other NSW public sector industrial instruments.

On the 27 August the NSW Government told the PSA and the Industrial Relations Commission that they will be lodging awards to strip another hundred public sector conditions awards. This will include awards covering other unions as well as the other PSA conditions awards.

I must stress that the PSA has not and will not agree to this outrageous attack on our rights at work.


In addition to the attacks on our conditions of employment and women here is a quick reminder of the rest of the O’Farrell Government’s attacks on the NSW public sector.

Public Sector Salary Cap –2.5% – The NSW Government has capped public sector salary increases to 2.5%. With the support of Fred Nile and the Shooters, legislation was passed that takes away the independent power of the Industrial Relations Commission of NSW to deal with such matters.

The government has legislated to give itself complete power to determine wage increases (or not) and conditions of employment for public sector workers.

High Court Challenge – On 5 September, a full bench of the High Court of Australia heard the PSA’s challenge to the O’Farrell Government’s cap on public sector pay rises. The hearing went on for a full day with the NSW Government being the respondent.

Also intervening to support the NSW Government were South Australia, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia. They all as separate states put in written submissions and made oral submissions at the Hearing.

The Court adjourned at the end of the day and we now await the decision. There is no indication of when a decision is likely to be handed down.

Managing Excess Employees-The O’Farrell Government has abolished the ‘No Forced Redundancy’ policy. Previously if an officers position was deleted the Government would work with them to be redeployed.

Now, when an officer is declared excess they are given two weeks to make a decision on whether they take the Voluntary Redundancy or risk being forcibly retrenched with a significantly reduced package in three months time.

The PSA successfully ran a case against the policy applying to those officers who were excess prior to 1 August 2011. However the Government have changed the legislation to prevent us running a similar case in relation to excess employees.

Job Cuts – In 2011 the Government announced 5,000 public sector job cuts. A further 10,000 job cuts were announced in the 2012 budget.

Labour Expense Cap – 1.2% – The Labour Expenses Cap caps the total of employee related and contractor expenses that can be incurred in any year. This is in addition to the efficiency dividend. The Labour Expense Cap for 2012-2013 includes the Government’s decision to cap annual leave liabilities of individual employees at 40 days by June 2013. Other Government strategies to meet the Labour Expense cap are:
• Improving efficiency of staffing arrangements to better manage overtime.
• Reviewing current contracting levels, needs and arrangements.
• Applying more rigorous job evaluation processes to ensure jobs are properly graded to curb ‘grade creep’.
• Improving workforce management by reducing staffing through natural attrition and retirements.
• Improving alignment of staff resourcing with work demands, which may include increasing temporary, part time and/or casual staff for peak workload periods.

Power Privatisation – NSW Government passed legislation in May 2012 that saw the privatisation of Power Generators. Due to a strong union campaign, power workers’ conditions of employment are protected. Union campaigns also saw the Government back away from privatising the distribution sector.

Workers Compensation – Major cuts have been made to Workers Compensation. They include: weekly payments, medical costs, coverage of journey claims, lump sums and pain and suffering compensation, occupational disease claims, and legal costs.

The Government could have increased premiums but chose to cut benefits to injured workers instead.

Fines for unions – The NSW Government continues to attack workers rights to protest and to take industrial action.

The Industrial Relations Amendment (Dispute Orders) Bill 2012 will see fines on Unions who do not comply with IRC Orders, increased from $10,000 a day to over $100,000 a day.

Unions no longer have the right to arbitration over wages and conditions matters and unlike the Federal system no legal right to strike through protected action.

“Competitive” unionism – The Industrial Relations Amendment (Industrial Representation) Bill 2012 is an attempt to introduce competitive unionism and to facilitate the introduction of bosses unions.

Transfer of TAFE Staff – TAFE staff have been transferred to the federal system without any consultation. Unions are concerned that this move is the first stage towards the Government privatising TAFE.

Local Schools Local Decisions – Jobs are to be cut from the state and regional offices, the staffing formula relied upon for equitable distribution of funds across public schools is to be dismantled.
The transfer system which delivers experienced staff to schools and offers job security trashed. Permanent jobs in schools could be replaced by temporary or casual staff at the principal’s discretion.

The majority of SAS Staff are women, therefore creating further insecure employment for women workers in NSW.

The PSA is concerned that it could mean job cuts at the school level and possible job cuts to corporate staffing along with the proposed deletion of entire directorates in the Department of Education and Communities.

Every Student, Every School – Another government initiative that has reduced funding to students with disabilities and therefore cutting hours and jobs for School Learning Support Officers.

DOCS Outsourcing – The NSW Government to outsource key child protection services that will see private providers assume responsibility for all government foster care services within five years. The NSW Government plans to transfer an additional $123 million from the Community Services budget to fund a private sector take over of out-of-home care (foster care) services. Community Services currently provides 85% of out-of-home care services to children and young people in NSW (about 16,000).

One Stop Shops

The Government has announced that 18 shop fronts will be operational by the middle of next year with approximately 100 in place by 2017. Two hundred and ten Government services would be available. One Stop Shops will see the further loss of jobs and erosion of conditions of employment. The hours of operation are to be from 7am to 7pm during the week and from 9am to 3pm on Saturday. There will also be a new 24 hour phone service.

NSW Commission of Audit – The Schott Report

The Government established the NSW Government Commission of Audit in July 2011.
The first stage of the Schott report was released in February 2012. The Recommendations relating to public sector workers are to:

• Create a government unit to recommend public assets to be privatised.
• Review the Industrial relations Act to bring it into line with the Fair Work Act.
• Break up the Salaries Award to allow agency level classifications
• Amend Wages Policy to restrict the IRC’s ability to arbitrate work force policies and impose staff ratios.
• Conduct a study to compare public sector wages with public sector.
• Extend unfair Managing Excess Employees policy to the entire public sector.
• Flatten management structure.
• Undermine job security by broad banding positions to move staff from job to job without have to evaluate work value of jobs being performed.
• Create a performance management system that will allow staff to be more easily sacked and that introduces performance pay


I cannot make this clearer: the PSA will not take this lying down; it is our members who support and deliver the provisions of public services in this state.

We are vigorously opposing these attacks in the Industrial Relations Commission, the High Court, workplaces and the community.

While the government continues these unfair attacks on public sector workers the union movement is also suffering unfair, reputational damage because of the scandal-ridden HSU.

I want to take this opportunity to tell members that the PSA is very serious about its Corporate Governance. Monthly financial reports are prepared by our professionally qualified CFO and presented to Central Council.

The CFO and his staff also prepare annual statements and budgets for sections operating within the PSA.

I am proud to say that through good financial management, the Association’s assets now stand at over 53 million dollars. This is an outstanding position given that in the 1990’s delegates agreed to reduce their susso entitlements to help the Association’s cash flow.

Staff salaries are set by Central Council. No staff member or official can set their own salary. Apart from Regional Organisers (of which there are six) no PSA official or staff member is given a car or any other fringe benefit.

In addition, the PSA does not issue credit cards. No official or staff member in the PSA is given a PSA credit card.

The PSA has a strict policy on claiming reimbursement for expenses. We recently changed the method for delegates to claim susso for greater transparency and accountability.

When building renovations etc are required, tenders are called and examined so as to provide the best value for the PSA.

The PSA has always striven to meet high standards with members’ money. It is grossly unfair that allegations concerning the HSU have been used in the public arena to cast a shadow over PSA officials, staff and delegates.

While unions are being sidetracked dealing with this smear campaign, Barry O’Farrell continues his attack on public sector workers.

The PSA Executive has authorised a stop work meeting on Monday 8th of October from 9am to 1pm to brief members on the attacks on wages, jobs and conditions by the O’Farrell Government, on what the PSA is doing and what more we plan to do.

The meeting of member will be held at Sydney Town Hall and broadcast to 40 different venues across the state.

Accordingly I move the following motion:

PSA Women’s Conference condemns the proposed attacks on our working conditions by the O’Farrell Government. Our conditions of employment have been fought and won by the PSA and the union movement over the decades to improve the working lives of all Australians, not just NSW public servants.

Women’s Conference supports the PSA in all its efforts to preserve our working conditions. Particularly we call on the NSW Government to immediately withdraw its application for a new Crown Employees (Public Service Conditions of Employment) Award in the NSW Industrial Relations Commission.

In addition, this meeting endorses stopping work on Monday 8th October from 9am to 1pm to attend a meeting of PSA members at Sydney Town Hall* to save our working conditions.

(Seconded by Cassandra Coleman)


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