Massive support for teachers

Between 200 and 250 public sector workers and supporters called for the O’Farrell Government’s new industrial relations laws to be repealed in Market Square, Grafton, yesterday.
Between 200 and 250 public sector workers and supporters called for the O’Farrell Government’s new industrial relations laws to be repealed in Market Square, Grafton, yesterday. Adam Hourigan

PUBLIC servants from across the board joined yesterday's rally in Market Square, Grafton, in a show of support for teachers who were on strike about a proposed 2.5% pay rise cap and statewide redundancies.

Nurses' Association members said Grafton Base Hospital was left with skeleton staff and Grafton jail reportedly went into lockdown as various unions stopped work for the rally.

Vice president of the Grafton branch of the NSW Teachers' Association Audrey Vreugdenhil said Premier O'Farrell had shown "utter contempt" for the public service sector.

Cheered on by a vocal crowd who jeered and booed at the mention of O'Farrell or member for Clarence Steve Cansdell, Ms Vreugdenhil said every single working condition was under threat from the potential scrapping of the Industrial Relations Commission.

President of the Grafton branch of the NSW Nurses, Gwen Simpson, said the nursing industry had enough trouble attracting and retaining nurses with the current sparse conditions but the O'Farrell government now risked a future skill shortage.

"We've been cut to the bone already, there's nowhere else to go," Ms Simpson said.

"The bottom line is if we're not here, who's going to look after people?"

Chairman of the Grafton branch of the Prison Officers Vocational Branch (of the Public Sector Union), Scott Ensby, said if public sector wages were dropped in Grafton, it would become a ghost town.

Sharon Usher from the Corrective Services Teachers' Association said she had already witnessed teachers leaving the profession for other jobs with better pay and conditions and the vacancies left unfilled.

Describing himself as a proud public servant with 38 years experience, most of it in the Department of Community Services, Ray Wilton said Premier O'Farrell and former Liberal premier Nick Greiner could be non-identical twins.

Mr Wilton said DOCS (now Family and Community Services) still had not recovered from the cuts made in 1989 including the shutting down of 26 community services centres.

Maclean High School deputy principal Michael McMillan told The Daily Examiner yesterday one of the biggest issues was the removal of the IRC which meant there was no recourse for appeal.

Speaking after attending the 1000-strong protest rally in Coffs Harbour, NSW Police Association North Coast representative Detective Tony King said the attack on the government sector in regional areas like Grafton amounted to an attack on the Grafton community.

He said the police force had already been shed of "backroom bureaucrats" over the years and many frontline police were now adding administrative tasks to their workload as a result.

"The police force should be exempt from these redundancies because we have no backroom bureaucrats," Detective King said.

Topics:  grafton market square pay rise public servants strike

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