Union and community action needed to fight O'Farrell's IR attacks

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The NSW Socialist Alliance condemns the latest step in the attacks on NSW public sector workers and their unions, announced by Premier Barry O'Farrell on February 23.

O'Farrell used question time to announce that he intends to introduce a Bill to NSW Parliament on March 6 which will increase penalties for industrial action in defiance of IRC orders, or “wildcat strikes”.

The penalties will rise from $10,000 per day for a first "offence" to $110,000 per day. The new penalty for a "repeat offence" would be $220,000 per day!

While details are still vague, it is clear from O'Farrell's comments in parliament that the Bill is clearly aimed at curbing the fightback by public sector unions against the Coalition government's attacks on NSW teachers, nurses, firefighters, and public service employees.

As part of his IR Bill, O'Farrell intends to change the law to allow the State government to sack public servants who are currently designated as surplus to requirement, but who are filling temporary positions across the NSW public service, while awaiting permanent roles.

In 2011, TAFE and school teachers took stop work action - as part of the campaign with other public sector employees - against O'Farrell's 2.5% pay cap. The teachers bravely defied an order by the NSW Industrial Relations Commission to cease their industrial action.

These new laws are designed to cripple the NSWTF, along with nurses, firefighters and other public service employee unions should they dare to defy orders to protect their members pay and conditions and to protect services.

At the same time as O'Farrell has unions in his sights, he's happily governing on behalf of the corporate elite - selling off chunks of NSW public assets, and outsourcing public services to the private sector. Rail services, including the Illawarra and Eastern Suburbs lines are being targeted for possible privatisation.

Along with the desalination plant at Kurnell, the management of Sydney Ferries and Port Botany, the O'Farrell government intends to sell-off of the state's electricity generators, which - if it succeeds - will leave the Snowy Hydro as the last electricity generator in public hands.

A statewide campaign of opposition is needed in the lead up to March 6. Unions within and outside the public sector need to unite with the community to oppose these laws. After all they are intended to undermine the struggle to save jobs and protect essential public services and public assets for the people of NSW.

All public sector unions in NSW should take a leaf out of the book of NSW teachers and follow the example of Victorian nurses, who are defying Fair Work Australia in order to protect jobs and to defend safe nurse to patient ratios.