As an admirer of most of the positions Paul Krugman takes, I was caught on the fence when he supported public sector union outrage over what the (I think newly elected) Republican Governor in Wisconsin proposed to do to public sector conditions. From memory the basic political issues were clouded by the fact that the Republican had campaigned in poetry that more or less concealed his prosaic intentions in this score.
But for the life of me I can’t see why the publicly elected government shouldn’t determine the pay and conditions on which it employs people. If they don’t like it, it’s a free country and they can work for someone else. Anyway, now something similar, but it seems to my inexpert eye much milder is happening in NSW. The NSW Fire Brigade Employees’ Union is not happy. It’s taking action over the elected government’s implementation of a policy which doesn’t seem to differ too much from the policy of its predecessor.
It’s first complaint is that the new govt “pegs all future wage rises at 2.5 per cent per annum — well below inflation” How ‘well below inflation’ can you get. A percent or two over five years perhaps – though it could go the other way.
“Secondly, it strips the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) of its power to award any pay outcome outside of this figure — or indeed to award any outcome in respect of conditions that clashes with government policy.”
And without spending a lot of time I don’t have delving into this, it seems that it’s bringing back productivity bargaining, so that productivity growth becomes a precondition not for wage rises above basic levels, but a background expectation of maintaining real wage maintenance – rather like the ‘efficiency dividend’ is worked into agency funding arrangements.
Beats me why someone who’s managed to land a job in the sector sometime in the past can maintain things to their own advantage (at others’ cost) and against the will of the elected government of the day.