Public servants gather at Riverside Park in Lismore to protest the NSW State Government’s proposed restrictions on the Industrial Relations Commission.
Public servants gather at Riverside Park in Lismore to protest the NSW State Government’s proposed restrictions on the Industrial Relations Commission. Cathy Adams

Angry workers wage war

SUE McLeod is a fed-up school teacher from Kadina High School.

Gil Wilson is an outraged nurse at Lismore Base Hospital.

And Tim Mulroy is a concerned teacher of disabled students at Murwillumbah High School.

Despite their varying professions, the public service workers united yesterday at Heritage Park, Lismore, for a common purpose - to demand better wage conditions.

About 500 furious public sector employees gathered in Lismore to protest against the State Government's proposal to introduce a 2.5% wage increase cap and to ensure the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) adheres to the same policy.

"We are everyday people, we are struggling to pay our bills and the cost of living is going up," said Mr Mulroy, the NSW Teachers Federation State executive.

"The main fear is that our conditions will be damaged and we will lose the right to go to court. If the Government needs to cut costs, this will leave the community with fewer services."

Police officers, court sheriffs and clerical staff also made their presence known at the rally, whether it was by yelling "shame" at the top of their lungs or brandishing signs with the words "Bad Barry".

NSW Nurses Association Lismore branch secretary Gil Wilson said local MPs deserted them when it came to the wage cap crunch.

"When it came to the crunch did they support us? No," he said.

"The Government should prize their teachers, nurses and public service workers, not erode their wages."

The group of protesters marched into the Lismore CBD and then on to Lismore MP Thomas George'soffice, but he was not there.

Ms McLeod, who works in thelibrary at Kadina High School, spoke to the animated crowd and said her fellow staff members were exhausted.

"What we are marching for is democracy," she said.

"We have been given a mandate with no right of appeal."

Twenty schools across the region were closed yesterday as teachers and staff walked off the job.

The IRC issued a last-minute stop order against the statewide protest to the NSW Teachers Federation on Wednesday afternoon.

While the closure of schools and defiance of the order may have caused inconvenience to some, it was needed in the fight for democracy, Mr Mulroy said.

"In a democratic society we need to stand up for our conditions when the Government is trampling on them," he said.


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