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News Media Releases Unions demand State Government put its money where its mouth is on community sector wages
Unions demand State Government put its money where its mouth is on community sector wages
Friday, 20 May 2011 08:00

Despite the Government’s claims that this is a state budget dedicated to spending on services, WA unions are sceptical that today’s state budget will result in improved services for the WA community. The Government’s transfer of services from the public to the non-profit sector shifts responsibility for services to low paid community sector workers who are themselves becoming a vulnerable group in WA society.

A report commissioned by UnionsWA and due to be released tomorrow indicates that contracting services out to the non-profit sector is often a first step towards the full privatisation of public services.

If the Government was serious about improving services and pay for community workers it would have tied part of the funding to a wage increase. UnionsWA Secretary Simone McGurk said that despite repeated calls from WA unions for this to happen, the government has refused and continues to take advantage of these workers.

 “The Barnett Government continues to palm off its responsibility for service provision to the low paid workers in the non-profit community sector whilst at the same time refusing to guarantee these workers a fair wage.”

“It is simply not good enough for the Premier and the Treasurer to say that they are ‘hopeful’ that some of the funding increase will flow to workers. These are people who have been grossly underpaid for far too long.  Crying crocodile tears over this fact while failing to do anything concrete about it is not going to help these people pay their bills.”

“UnionsWA is calling on the State Government to put measures in place to guarantee that a fair percentage of this funding increase goes towards better wages. Anything else the Government says on this issue will be meaningless unless they are prepared to make this commitment.”

“The Government’s failure to address the wages of these workers while in the same budget showing no restraint around increasing the cost of their utilities bills – which will now have risen almost 50% under this Government - is just adding insult to injury.”

89% of workers in the community sector earn less than $50,000 a year. The vast majority of these workers stay in the sector for less than 5 years.

Ms McGurk has said that the poor pay and high staff turnover has implication for the standard of services. “Research both from Australia and overseas demonstrates that there is a serious threat to services when public services are moved to the non-profit sector. The high staff turnover in the sector leads to an increased reliance on casual staff and a loss of knowledge and experience.”

Unions have also criticised the Barnett Government for failing to ensure that more Western Australians are able to share in the benefits of the boom by introducing local content measures. Ms McGurk has accused the government of chipping around the edges in this budget to cover up their lack of action on local content.

“The Government’s announcement of some minor additional funding for training and skill development just highlights their failure to ensure local businesses benefit from the resource boom. If they were serious about training and development they would work with our local businesses to ensure that the benefits of the boom aren’t all going offshore and that there are good work and on-the-job training and development opportunities here in WA.”

For more information contact: Madeleine Holme, Campaign and Communications Officer, UnionsWA 0417 060 360


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