The tone of this conference here in Wellington will no doubt stand in stark contrast to that of the Irish public sector union only a few months ago.
In what has been described as a firebrand speech, the union chief demanded his members accept a four year strike ban, a pay freeze following pay cuts, massive redundancies and rationalisations – all of which were agreed with the Irish government earlier in the year.
What is more remarkable is the acceptance by his members and others in the public sector that the global financial crisis and its impact on the Celtic Tiger required such austerity….that is acceptance from the unions other than the secondary teachers union.
After undertaking months of industrial action including marching in the streets, that secondary teachers union there last week decided to finally accept the facts of recession and is joining the wider public sector pay restraint.
And then Tony continues:
The United Kingdom is facing the largest peacetime deficit in their history. Public servants earning more than $40,000 are facing a two year wage freeze, and performance-related pay for civil servants will be cut by 2/3rds.
Just last week the Governor of the Bank of England urged unions to accept public sector reforms and job cuts by warning that anything short of tackling the UK’s Budget deficit would “fail the next generation.”
In Italy the Government passed an austerity package of around $50 billion of saving which includes a freeze on public sector wages.
In Ireland the Government has cut public service salaries – including doctors, nurses, and teachers – by up to 15%.
Greece‘s socialist government has frozen public sector wages and pensions for the next three years.
In Hungary they plan to cut the cost of public servants pay by 15% and freeze government spending.
The Portugese government has put a hiring freeze on its civil service, along with a 5% wage cut for top earners in the public sector.
Germany has the strongest economy in Europe. But the Germans plan to reduce the number of their federal public servants by 15,000 – or 5% – and cut their salaries by 2.5%.
Canada has frozen wages in the public service for the next two to three years.
Compared to what’s happened internationally, New Zealand’s response has been fair, moderate and pragmatic.
And then Tony goes on to praise the PSA:
I would like to acknowledge the Public Service Association for the constructive and responsible part you have played in employment negotiations to date. You are professional yet determined.
You have sought settlements for your members that recognise the tough financial times we are all in.
While hard fought, those settlements have been responsible, realistic and fair to both parties…often between one and two percent. You’ve also been innovative in your approach to addressing productivity improvement.
Which is another message to the PPTA they are not getting 4%.