The New South Wales government’s attempt to cut back long-service leave entitlements for new public sector recruits was quickly blocked by the state’s upper house last week following a backlash from unions.
The controversial changes, part of Gladys Berejiklian’s latest public sector cost-cutting drive, would have seen new staff starting from July 1 entitled to the same amount of leave as their colleagues for their first 10 years of service, but then 40% less after that.
“After 10 years of service, new employees’ accruals will be reduced from five to three months for each subsequent period of 10 years’ service,” the budget papers explained. Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the savings measure would bring NSW public sector employees — new ones at least — into line with other jurisdictions and community expectations.
But public sector unions, particularly those representing frontline employees, were not having a bar of it and non-government politicians sided quickly with the police, teachers, nurses and midwives. Upper house members from the opposition and cross-bench parties combined to strike out the entitlement cut on Thursday night, pleasing public sector unions like the Police Association of NSW.
“We were shocked that at the same time as Treasurer Dominic Perrottet spoke out in his budget rhetoric this week about police being the heart and soul of the workforce, he also moved to strip reasonable long-service leave entitlements away from the new cohorts of future police officers about to begin their careers as funded by the same budget,” PANSW president Tony King said after the parliamentary proceedings.
“Long-serving Police need the dignity of time for the respite, recovery and self-care needed towards their long-term welfare and well-being. Extended leave provides enough genuine time out for them to recharge their batteries, reconnect with families and also look at opportunities to develop allied skills and education. It’s a must-have and should never be traded off.”
Police agencies and their unions are typically strong lobbyists and otherwise, King is happy with the budget. He said the government had delivered a “significant boost” to police staffing levels the PANSW had lobbied for, and $100 million on infrastructure upgrades including to police stations in Bega, Goulburn, Jindabyne, Bourke and Bathhurst, as well as a new education and training facility at Dubbo.