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Public sector union halts support for ALP over budget cuts

National Secretary of The Community and Public Sector Union, Nadine Flood.

National Secretary of The Community and Public Sector Union, Nadine Flood. Photo: Rohan Thomson

A crisis meeting of the public sector union is extending the suspension of its election campaign support of the Labor Party in protest at the federal government's plans to cut another $1.8 billion from the public service.

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) is calling for an urgent meeting with the government about the decision to increase the ''efficiency dividend'' from 1.25 per cent to 2.25 per cent, which it estimates will cost up to 5000 jobs and cause huge delays and backlogs in government services for millions of Australians.

As part of last Friday's mini-budget, the government is imposing the cuts in the form of the dramatically increased public service efficiency dividend from next July.

The ''temporary'' three-year increase to the dividend was unveiled as the government grapples with a $33 billion drop in projected revenue for the next four years.

Finance Minister Penny Wong said she expected an extra $1.8 billion in savings from the increased dividend.

The public service is expected to rip out $600 million a year from its budget for three years without forced redundancies, according to the federal government. Union national secretary Nadine Flood said the cuts were a blow for public sector workers already struggling with the impact of previous cutbacks and job losses.

''We are seeking a clear commitment from the highest levels of government about supporting public sector jobs and services, and a better decision than an across-the-board efficiency dividend cut,'' she said on Monday.

''We understand that times are tough, but you only have to walk into a Centrelink office to know the queues are already long enough.

''To secure the support of public sector workers, Labor needs strong policies that demonstrate how different they are to the Liberals when it comes to public sector jobs and services.

''We know Tony Abbott will cut 12,000 to 20,000 public sector jobs, but public sector workers expect something different and better from Kevin Rudd.

''If any other industry announced it was cutting thousands of jobs, there would be a national outcry.

''Public sector workers are real people, too, with families, mortgages and bills.''

Over the past few months, hundreds of CPSU delegates and staff have been working with the ACTU and ALP candidates to make thousands of calls in marginal seats, co-ordinating local election action, and getting the union's ''Cuts Hurt'' campaign message out to tens of thousands of public-sector workers.

Meanwhile, a think tank warns the federal government's cuts to the public service are reducing productivity and stifling innovation.

The report - Death by a Thousand Cuts - from the Centre for Policy Development says rising expectations of public services cannot be met in the face of ''blind, across-the-board cuts''.

The authors examine recent cuts in the federal and West Australian public sectors, and highlight what they say are long-term problems resulting for the Commonwealth, WA, and other states and territories.

The paper says undesired consequences of indiscriminate cuts include:

■ Loss of workforce knowledge and skills.

■ Loss of productivity and innovation, due to reduced engagement, lack of resources and time.

■ Loss of trust and confidence in public sector institutions.

''Many governments in Australia and internationally are choosing to 'avoid responsibility' for service shortfalls when making budget savings, by applying across-the-board cuts rather than identifying the services which should be reduced or ceased,'' the authors say.

''The report argues that ineffective services and less engaged public servants can lower the popularity of the government in power, hamper the enforcement of laws and regulations, and reduce popular engagement with the democratic process.''

Co-author Kathy MacDermott says while staff engagement is a key factor in raising productivity, that engagement is eroded by government rhetoric that denigrates the public sector in an attempt to justify cuts.

Research director Christopher Stone says the cuts ''will backfire''.

■ The publication was funded by the Community and Public Sector Union and the Civil Service Association of Western Australia.

15 comments

  • Instead of dropping campaign support, the CPSU would keep faith with their members if they actively campaigned against the increased effiency dividend with the same fierceness they have aimed at the Coalition. By simply "halting" support for the ALP, they are letting them off the hook way too easily.

    I have news for Nadine Flood: I don't "expect something different and better from Kevin Rudd". This hypocrisy is exactly what I expected from Kevin Rudd and modern Labor. Over the last six years, they have imposed extreme cuts on the public service and had us chasing our tails with their ill-considered programs. The CPSU has barely raised a whimper. Only sentimentality has made me keep up my Union membership. This latest cop-out will probably make me quit the Union after 37 years of continuous membership.

    And don't give me the comeback that an Abbott Government would be worse. I don't believe it. The past six years of chaos and waste have convinced me of that.

    Commenter
    Long-time CPSU member
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    August 06, 2013, 2:41AM
    • 20,000 sacked PS under John Howard and Abbott will sack another 15,000.
      Good luck Nadine Flood as you may not have a job, yourself, about this time next year as the bulk of the CPSU membership take redundancy when Abbott takes over.

      Commenter
      Akari
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      August 06, 2013, 9:57AM
    • It might seem like Hobson's choice but you may want to cast an eye over what happened in QLD if you want a guide to what you as APS member can expect from an LNP government.

      Commenter
      Mark
      Date and time
      August 06, 2013, 11:37AM
  • I don't think the Australian public will care about cuts to the public service especially given that most of the cuts are to the bloated senior executive service and won't be deterred by the CPSU's position.

    Commenter
    Felix
    Location
    ACT
    Date and time
    August 06, 2013, 2:59AM
    • Felix, the problem is that it won't be the 'bloated SES' who will go - it will be the already over exposed lower levels. The PS is starting to look like an inverted triangle. But I agree the CPSU is becoming both irrelevant and powerless. What a lot of people forget is, for better or worse, Canberra relies heavily on the PS to keep other areas of the local economy ticking over. Cut them, damage everybody.

      Commenter
      Irene
      Date and time
      August 06, 2013, 8:44AM
    • @Felix - so are the sacked public servants not part of the Australian public? If 15,000 are sacked that is a huge number of families (partners, children etc) that will be impacted. It will additionally have a significant impact on other businesses that supply services to those families i.e. tradesmen, restaurants, retail.

      Commenter
      Stu
      Location
      ACT
      Date and time
      August 06, 2013, 11:09AM
    • Copule of hundred people in Geelong lose their job and it's panic and retraining programs and what can we do to assist. Public Servants is a meh...we have families, we are working hard so treat us with the same respect as the auto worker, the mining person etc.

      Commenter
      Jitterry
      Date and time
      August 06, 2013, 3:07PM
    • There are only about 1600 SES positions in total. Where will the other 13,400 sackings come from?

      Commenter
      Meanwhile
      Date and time
      August 06, 2013, 4:26PM
  • No Irene, it won't be. That's already been made extremely clear. In no other industry, apart from the PS, would the bloat at executive level be allowed to continue. Now, before you and the rest of the hysterics on here go bonkers, I firmly believe in the importance and value of the public service. Not only does it perform work necessary for publicly-funded services to operate, it also contains staff who genuinely believe in civic duty. That is laudable.. However, it is also populated with a multitude of staff who are of the opinion that, "once I'm in the PS, I have a job for life and don't really have to do much to keep it." The inability of PS departments to rid themselves of such workers is the travesty and why the Australian public is so anti PS workers. Prime example is the PS worker who claimed (and won!!!) B&H damages earlier this year because their manager, trying to be sensitive whilst performance managing them, conducted the sessions in private, away from co-workers. Is there anyone (rational) who thinks that this is reasonable OR that this would be tolerated in the private sector? PS workers should be subject to the same rules and conditions as the rest of the workforce. If they aren't/can't do their job, then why are we, the Australian public, paying for their employment? If the kid gloves were taken off and PS workers NOT treated like Gen Y prima-donnas ("I know my rights!") I think we'd quite swiftly see a natural attrition, increased efficiency and maybe, just maybe, a PS workforce more in tune with what we, the Australian public, deserve from our PS.

    Commenter
    K-man999
    Date and time
    August 06, 2013, 9:17AM
    • Maybe you should tell Defence that!!! More executives less worker bees!!!

      Commenter
      Irene
      Date and time
      August 06, 2013, 10:42AM

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