THOUSANDS of regional public service workers walked off the job yesterday to protest what they say are relentless cuts to jobs, work rights and services by the state government.
The Public Service Association (PSA) authorised its 40,000 members – including police, corrective service officers, school support staff, park rangers, child protection case workers, disability support workers, IT and human resources staff across all NSW government departments – to stop work and attend mass meetings across the state from 10am yesterday.
In Tamworth about 200 association members attended a stop work meeting held at Wests’ Diggers.
At the end of the meeting members supported a resolution to ramp up their campaign.
The region’s PSA organiser Steve Mears said members had voted in full support of ongoing action to hold the government to account.
“That action will take different forms. We aren’t ruling anything out at this stage but further stop-work meetings, as well as work bans and rolling stoppages are likely,” he said.
Mr Mears said our region had already felt the brunt of a number of cuts – primarily in the Crown Lands and forestry sectors – but more were to come.
“Under these budget cuts we are expecting more jobs to go from schools, particularly administration and support staff roles, other sectors like the Rural Fire Service, which only has a few paid staff could also face cuts,” he said.
While it’s too early to tell how many more public sector employees may lose their jobs Mr Mears estimated it could easily be 100 to 120 over the next six to 12 months.
“The other problem is the way it’s happening. It maybe one or two jobs here and there but then another one or two a few months later, it all adds up,” he said.
Mr Mears said as a result of the stop work action services to the public had been affected, but a skeleton staff had remained on duty in areas critical to safety.
“While we are taking the action we are keen to ensure there is a minimal impact on the community,” he said.
Mr Mears said the hundreds of local workers taking part in the action had done so because they were tired of the insecurity surrounding their jobs and their rights and entitlements.
“Since it came to office, the O’Farrell government has cut important work rights and entitlements for public sector workers, cut tens of thousands of jobs and pulled funding out of essential services like education and health,” he said.
Mr Mears said workers believed the cuts were unfair and regional communities like Tamworth were feeling the pinch.
“Our members feel they have no choice but to take a stand against the massive cuts to the public sector, to protect jobs and services. They feel a responsibility to the public of NSW to fight these cuts,” Mr Mears said.
During the meeting members of the association gathered in Tamworth watched a live streaming of the meeting being held in Sydney’s town hall, led by the PSA general secretary John Cahill and representatives and speakers from affected government departments including national parks, school administrative and support staff, corrective services and community services.