Australian disability workers strike against privatisation
15 February 2017
Up to 1,000 disability service workers held a one-day strike yesterday in New South Wales (NSW), Australia’s most populous state, in opposition to the ongoing privatisation of the sector. Over 500 participated in a Sydney meeting, then marched to the state parliament.
The walkout was in defiance of a state Industrial Relations Commission order banning any industrial action. The ruling underscored the determination of the tribunal, following similar interventions by the federal Fair Work Commission, to criminalise virtually any political or industrial campaign against the bipartisan agenda of privatisation and attacks on workers’ jobs and conditions.
The Public Service Association (PSA), however, called the limited strike and protest in a bid to divert widespread anger among disability workers behind impotent appeals to the state Liberal-National government, and to promote the opposition Labor Party.
While issuing empty denunciations of privatisation, the assorted union officials did not mention that much of the sector has already been sold-off over the past three years, with the PSA having done nothing to oppose the destruction of public disability services. Only around 6,000 workers in the sector are still employed by government departments.
Last year, for instance, the state government completed the privatisation of the Home Care Service, which provided assistance to over 50,000 disabled and elderly people, and employed 4,000 workers. The government body’s role has been outsourced to Australian Unity, in a contract worth around $114 million. There are already widespread reports that some of those previously covered are not receiving any services from the privatised…