Emergencies join in Tassie wage fight
A stand-off over wages continues in the Tasmanian public sector, and the Government is also being accused of trying to water-down an important anti-corruption office.
Tasmania's fire-fighters have now joined the state’s teachers and nurses in calling on Treasurer Peter Gutwein to keep an election promise.
Pre-election talks indicated the LNP intended bolster front line services, but it now appears that this boost might come at a cost to wages.
The Treasurer has now written to unions, advising them to be “sensible” and willing to negotiate the wage freeze he offered.
The letter to unions says that a six-month wage freeze with strings attached would not be accepted, and cuts to teacher and nursing jobs could be necessary to fix the bottom line.
Mr Gutwein wrote that the Government's 18-month pay freeze plan would save $50 million and 500 full-time jobs (FTEs).
“A 12-month pay freeze saves $30 million (300 FTE) and a six-month freeze $15 million (150 FTE) - not the 500 FTEs that your proposal appears to indicate,” he said.
Reports say the unions have offered to take a six-month wage freeze and to leave the door open to more wage restraint later on.
Tasmania’s nurses’ union – the Nursing and Midwifery Federation – says that nurses already have to work 17-hour shifts to make up for a lack of staff.
The union reports a record 288 ‘double shifts’ were worked at the Royal Hobart Hospital last month.
It argues that the excessive work schedules are putting lives at risk, as tired nurses put patient care at risk.
The union says that the extra staff are out there, but a range of inefficiencies stop them from getting work where they are needed most.
“There's 124 nurses in Tasmania looking for work, so we do know that there's nurses out there,” Nursing and Midwifery Federation's spokesperson Neroli Ellis told the ABC.
“We've raised for years now the HR system - it requires 17 signatures to put one nurse on in a permanent position, and that usually takes three months, and during that whole time the roster is vacant,” she said.
Meanwhile, Tasmania's Attorney-General says she wants to keep the state's Integrity Commission, but remove much of its power.
Attorney-General Vanessa Goodwin told a parliamentary committee this week that the Integrity Commission should be stripped of its powers, but continue to operate as an intermediary, funnelling complaints to other authorities.
“Am I talking about abolishing the integrity commission? No,” she said.
“The Integrity Commission will continue to play a central role in ensuring all complaints are triaged and dealt with in an appropriate way by the appropriate authority.”
Ms Goodwin said the Integrity Commission would be better used in educating public servants about misconduct.
Former Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Damien Bugg agrees that the IC’s investigations were inefficient.
“I question five months to assess a matter and then, pardon my common language, flick-pass it to three different people,” he said.
“This was not a serious matter, the triage process turned into an investigation ... because the assessor has that power under the act.
“And then after five months the assessor says; ‘Well that's as far as I can take it’, and the chief executive officer referred it out to the ombudsman, the head of the department and one other person, to quote: ‘investigate and take action’.”