Workers rally strikes at the heart of service.

Public Service Association open letter 

I would like to set the record straight regarding comments made by Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson in your story “Workers Rally” dated 15 February 2016. 

Members of the Public Service Association (PSA) took action to highlight to the community the enormous looming social cost of privatising disability services.

The NSW Government has shut down negotiations on an improved transfer package for staff and refused to enshrine the wages and conditions of these workers in an award going forward.

The PSA exhausted every avenue on behalf of these workers, many of whom are women.

Strike action did not sit comfortably with a professional workforce whose lives are dedicated to assisting some of the most vulnerable in our society.

But the fact is these people are angry, and rightly so.

I totally and vehemently reject the misguided statements by Kevin Anderson that the union’s action meant clients faced “reduced or non-existent care” or that people with disability were placed at risk.

The PSA gave the Department several weeks notice of the strike to allow them to exercise their legal duty of care and make the necessary arrangements.

A few days before the strike, the Department approached the PSA with concerns about care coverage in a number of areas.

The PSA immediately addressed the matter and sought volunteers who were prepared to assist, despite their future employment being under a cloud with privatisation.

The Department later confirmed in writing that the shifts that were causing concern had now been covered.

If Mr Anderson is accusing the Department of breaching its duty of care, he should take that up with the Department directly rather than attempt to tarnish this union.

A perfect storm is brewing with the Government removing choice by destroying public disability services while serious concerns about the funding of the NDIS are a matter of public record.

So what will happen to people with disability who find that the NDIS and the private sector do not have the capacity to cater to their needs and there is no Government safety net to break their fall?

What will happen to these people who as Mr Anderson points out  “rely on their support workers to get out of bed, to eat, to take medication, and for personal care” when the NDIS fails them and the Government has stepped out of the disability space?

And yes, Mr Anderson, these workers are some of the most dedicated and caring people in the community.

So why are they being treated as being totally dispensable and disposable with the disability privatisation?

Why only when they take last resort strike action are they suddenly deemed to be an essential service?

The fact is the NSW Government that is washing its hands of all responsibility for public disability services and walking away.

An entire professional sector is being totally dismantled, leaving NSW as the only state in Australia with no Government safety net and throwing the care of people with disability into free fall.

Many will land heavily in the state’s hospitals, mental health facilities and even the criminal justice system, areas lacking expertise in specialist disability care.

The fact is the privatisation will mean the most vulnerable in our society and their families are going to be subjected to a social disaster, a massively magnified repeat of what has been occurring in TAFE with private providers.

There’s a legacy to be proud of Mr Anderson.

Troy Wright

Assistant General Secretary

Public Service Association of NSW