ABOUT 700 public sector disability workers braved pouring rain and NSW government threats of legal action to rally outside Parliament House against the privatisation of government disability services.
Three coach loads of Public Service Association members joined the rally from Newcastle and the Hunter, and smaller rallies were held in various regional centres around NSW.
PSA Hunter organiser Paul James said the rally was a “great result” given the weather and the Supreme Court action he said the government had taken against the union to try to stop the strike. Mr James and other union leaders called on new Premier Gladys Berejiklian to “have a heart” and stop the planned privatisation.
The Coalition government is well advanced with plans to dismantle state-run disability services in NSW as part of a heads of agreement on the National Disability Insurance Service signed in December 2012 by then premier Barry O’Farrell and then prime minister Julia Gillard.
NSW Disability Services Minister Ray Williams referred to this agreement in his comments after the rally and strike, saying “the transfer of these services is an important part of enabling the long-term success of the NDIS, as it will allow participants to have their choice of services within a diverse market”.
“We have protected workers’ leave and superannuation entitlements through legislation, as well as recognising their continuity of service,” Mr Williams said.
“Additionally, we are providing ongoing workers with a two-year employment guarantee from the date of transfer, and a transfer payment of up to eight weeks pay. Temporary workers have a six month employment guarantee.”
But union leaders told hundreds of striking workers at PSA House before a march through Sydney streets to Parliament House that the transfer conditions insisted on by the government were dramatically inferior to those made available to power workers and other government employees whose agencies had been privatised. PSA assistant general secretary Troy Wright said the government had been “superficial, patronising and disrespectful” in its negotiations with the union. Mr Wright said the union was determined to stop the government from “washing its hands and walking away from society’s most vulnerable”.
Opposition leader Luke Foley addressed the rally outside Parliament House, telling the crowd in pouring rain that regardless of what was intended with the NDIS, the state government had to retain publicly owned disability services as least as a “provider of last resort”.