Disability workers to strike across NSW

PROTEST WITH PLACARDS: An earlier Public Service Association rally against the NSW government's planned privatisation of disability services as part of the NDIS. Picture: Kate McIllwain.
PROTEST WITH PLACARDS: An earlier Public Service Association rally against the NSW government's planned privatisation of disability services as part of the NDIS. Picture: Kate McIllwain.

THE Public Service Association expects more than 1000 of its members to take part in an anti-privatisation strike rally in Sydney on Valentine’s Day despite the NSW Industrial Relations Commission ordering the union to call off its industrial action.

The Tuesday, February 14 strike is the latest round of a hostile battle over the planned privatisation of state disability services as part of the state government’s contribution to the NDIS. 

The PSA’s newly elected assistant general secretary, Troy Wright, said at least four busloads of people from the Hunter and Central Coast regions were expected to travel to Sydney for the rally, which would finish with a march to Parliament House. Other rallies would be held in Albury, Bathurst, Goulburn, Lismore and Tamworth.

Mr Wright said the government had kept thousands of disability workers in the dark over the way the system would be broken up, with “not even the most basic details of the transition made available to the workforce”.

 “NSW is the only state proceeding with a full privatisation of disability services as part of the NDIS,” Mr Wright said.

He said union members feared for the futures of those clients with “complex behaviours” who the non-government sector and for-profit providers had not, or could not, cater for.

“What happens to them when there are no state disability services?” Mr Wright said.

The new Disability Services Minister, Ray Williams, said state disability workers were “some of the most dedicated and caring people in the community” but the union leadership was “using people with a disability as a bargaining chip, which I believe is abhorrent”.

Mr Williams justified the wind-up of state services, saying it “allows us to transfer every dollar of our disability budget directly into the NDIS, where it will be used to provide support to the people who need it most”.

He said permanent departmental staff would get eight weeks pay as a transfer payment and a job guarantee for two years. Temporary workers would get a six-month guarantee.

But Mr Wright said this was far less than workers in privatised power companies or port authorities and the job guarantee said nothing about terms and conditions.