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"Out of touch" public sector should get nothing: Business SA

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The state’s peak business lobby has called on the Weatherill Government to “hold the line” against threats of industrial action by the public sector union, which InDaily yesterday revealed was gearing up to “go to war” over Labor’s bid to cap pay rises at 1.5 per cent.

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The Public Service Association has declared it will ask its members to consider industrial action, frustrated with Government intransigence over its demands to lock in pay increases of 2.5 per cent a year and a raft of new workplace entitlements in a new enterprise bargaining deal that would cover around 37,000 employees.

“They’ve agreed to nothing that we’ve asked for [and] we’re gearing up essentially to go to war,” PSA general secretary Nev Kitchin told InDaily yesterday.

But Business SA boss Nigel McBride came out swinging today, arguing the demand highlighted “a disconnect between the public sector and the broader community”.

He told InDaily state bureaucrats were “really a privileged group of employees, completely out of touch with ordinary South Australians [who are] facing unemployment and underemployment”.

“The terms and conditions of the public sector worker are privileged by comparison to anyone working in a small business,” he said, describing the demands as “completely out of touch and unsympathetic with their fellow South Australians and what they’re facing”.

McBride said his “ideal world” would be a moratorium on public service pay.

“My staff, over the last five years, have not had an across-the-board increase [and] our members also are either doing no pay increases or having to reduce their head count,” he said, describing the 1.5 per cent annual cap as “a very reasonable position by the Government”.

“And it should be seen as very reasonable – [the union] should be grabbing it with both hands,” he said.

“It’s not like we’re starting at a low base, it’s not like these public sector workers haven’t had a history of great outcomes on terms and conditions.

“I just think they’re being incredibly insensitive to what most South Australians are feeling [and] the SA public should know that it’s quite unreasonable to make these kinds of demands in terms like this, and they should back their Government in terms of taking on union bosses who will go to war.”

McBride has been at loggerheads with Labor over its budget bank tax, but he extended an olive branch of sorts today, praising the Government “for holding the line” on pay.

“And I really hope they’ll continue to hold the line,” he said.

A State Government spokesperson said “in all negotiations, the Government is committed to securing outcomes that are beneficial to employees and the employer”.

“The provision of vital services to all South Australians is paramount… the Government continues to engage in discussions with all representatives,” they said.

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