TRANSPORT WORKERS UNION STRIKE PROPOSAL
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: I ask the Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs, representing the Minister for Industrial Relations and Employment, a question without notice. Is the Transport Workers Union demanding a 15 per cent wage increase be paid to its members or they will strike to prevent the delivery of food supplies to supermarkets, et cetera, prior to Christmas? In view of the disastrous effects of the drought on the delivery of food supplies for the huge population of Sydney and rising food prices, what effect will the threatened strike have on the families of New South Wales as they prepare for their Christmas celebrations? Are these threats by the Transport Workers Union and similar strike threats by the New South Wales Teachers Federation part of an Australian Labor Party plan to cause maximum disruption prior to the 1995 State election?
The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK: I commend Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile for his obvious concern for the families of New South Wales. That concern is shared by the Government, but, sadly, it is not shared by those who, for whatever motive, are intent on disrupting the life and good order of New South Wales with great emphasis on the Christmas period and, dare I say it, in the lead-up to the election next March. It can be no accident that those who, to suit their own purposes, are flexing their industrial muscle to achieve their own selfish or misguided ends, or those who have a different political agenda from that of the Government, see this as a good time to strike. It is appalling that the Transport Workers Union, beyond the bounds of reason, is making such an outrageous claim well above any increase in the consumer price index or the cost of living.
The claim and the threat of industrial chaos before Christmas have been roundly condemned, not only by people of my political persuasion in the Government but by those who traditionally would be regarded as closer allies, for example, the Prime Minister and those who started off their lives as trade union officials. Members of the TWU, who must have families and children and be looking forward to the celebrations of Christmas, must realise from their own personal desires, beliefs and expectations of the Christmas period what chaos they will cause to the families of New South Wales if they strike. Indeed,
they have been up-front in saying that Christmas is a good time to strike because maximum chaos can be created. Is that a responsible attitude? Is it a sign of a mature union trying to negotiate a sensible wage increase? I do not think so.
New South Wales families are trying to balance their budgets, to buy Christmas gifts and dinners, and to plan the holiday season. It is appalling that when they go to the supermarkets they might not only have bare shelves; they might have increasing prices. Those increasing prices are a worry to all families in New South Wales, many of which are doing it tough and having to watch their budgets carefully. It is one thing for prices to increase and shortages to occur as a result of a natural disaster - people are doing it tough in the drought - because there is a level of understanding and sympathy. But it is reprehensible that such increases and shortages could be compounded because a union determines for industrial and political reasons in the pursuit of industrial goals that it is a good time to cause maximum pain to the people of New South Wales. It is disgraceful; it is reprehensible. Before this action is taken members of the union should stop thinking about the union and look at themselves as individuals and members of families. They should take a more responsible attitude. Clearly, there is an agenda that goes beyond salaries. One can only wonder what connection that has with the election of next March.