NSW unions relaunch campaign against privatisation for state election

Unions NSW Secretary Mark Lennon has announced plans to campaign against privatisation in the lead up to next year’s NSW state election in March. Lennon was hosting a “Better Services, Better State” meeting, a product of pressure to revive the campaign against privatisation by the NSW Teachers’ Union.

But Unions NSW wants to limit the campaign to a Your Rights at Work-style electoral campaign. Meetings of local union delegates are being planned to start organising this.

Yet the current NSW Labor government’s efforts to privatise and cut services are already being expanded. Other speakers at the meeting highlighted the breadth of the threat. Pat Ranald spoke on the Australian Services Union’s behalf about water privatisation, while academic John Buchanan outlined the challenges to TAFE including a federal government decision that stripped $50 million of funding from NSW TAFEs through outsourcing tenders, and 400,000 apprentices registered at non-TAFE providers as “trainees” who do not receive the same level of training.

A Public Services Association (PSA) official detailed cuts to the Department of Community Services (DoCS). Particularly disturbing was the expose of how cuts to DoCS, since the neo-liberal assaults of the early 1990s, have directly led to child deaths as understaffed case workers fail to cope with unrealistic case numbers.

Plans stalled
Despite its broad privatisation plans, the NSW Labor government has so far only managed to sell or contract out NSW Lotteries, Parklea prison, state owned nursing homes and ancillary health services. Unions have defeated efforts to privatise Sydney Ferries, and prevented privatisation of Cessnock prison.

Power privatisation has been a debacle. The effort to sell power retail companies along with power supply contracts (that mean partial privatisation of the generators) looks unlikely to be finalised before the state election. But with NSW opposition Liberal leader Barry O’Farrell a near certainty to become premier, the full privatisation agenda will likely be revived.

NSW Labor has only itself to blame for the poor polls. Instead of the promised North West public train line, it built an unnecessary $2 billion water desalination plant.

The record of Unions NSW is part of the problem. It wound down the campaign against power privatisation after striking a messy compromise.

Unions NSW never united the combined public sector union movement in mass rallies and strike action like that during the Your Rights at Work campaign.

The union movement needs to do more than just campaign electorally—serious delegates meetings are needed to mobilise public sector and services workers to stop the ongoing privatisation drive and prepare to fight the Liberals’ plans if they come to power in March.

By John Morris

To receive updates about Unions NSW “Better Services” campaign, visit www.betterstate.org.au


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  1. The Union movement like many others has been a voice for the people of NSW. Who can forget the CFMU and their grateful help in protecting the historic buildings in Union Square Pyrmont, from the CBD Metro or the 30 homes in Leamington Avenue Newtown,from Railway Extensions, more recently. Mr Jack Munday and the Unions are to be congratulated for their hard work and conscience. However we must remember it was NOT the Liberals that did this. It was NSW Labor. NSW Labor that wanted to give us a privatised 7 billion Metro, resulting in the loss of 1,000 jobs. I respect the Union Movement but I would ask all to remember to the utmost that currently NSW Labor, wishes to revisit the CBD Metro issue in the future. This is NSW Labor that wants to let down the people of NSW including the NSW Union Movement. Its hard to understand NSW Labor and its CBD Metro. The CBD Metro is not about Public Transport but power behind the scenes for NSW Labor. Meanwhile 300 lives + are lost on NSW roads each year. Our hospitals have waiting lists and leaks in the roofs etc. I will always stick up for good causes and respect the Unions. Will the Unions give the people of NSW a fair go and negotiate a way forward with the NSW Liberal Nationals, so we can once again be prosperous and not afraid? It’s all we ask. Including County NSW.

  2. David, thanks for the reply.

    The folly of the CBD metro makes sense when seen in the light of the commercial development of Barrangeroo penisula (Hungry Mile docks.It was not a real public transport plan to serve the extended needs of Sydney, but in part to service the lucrative tourist trap now ubber stamped by Kristina Kennealy.

    However, Labor had to scuttle the plans due to public discontent. The unions have an important role here – workers at the coal face have a conciousness of how their systems work and have ideas on how to improve them. Combined with being organised, this means unions can be a solid footing of community thought and resistance when governments and corporations act against the interests of all.
    NSW dosnt need a Liberal government that is more to the right – it needs the current Labor government held to account to the left. This means spending on the rail, schools and hospitals you mention. For instance my union, the NSW Teachers, are seeking a funding increase to public schools across the stateto enable a class size cap of 25 students, as a election promise.

    The power campaign exposed the lies that governments cannot borrow – at rates better than commercial ! – because it will threaten their AAA credit rating. NSW has not lost its rating – for what it is worth – despite the no sale of the generators.

    Unionists need to take up the issue of funding services, push for mass delegates meetings, and hold Labor to account before March 2011.


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