Union challenges State Government

Together union secretary Alex Scott.
Together union secretary Alex Scott. Sharyn O'Neill

QUEENSLAND'S public sector union plans to launch a constitutional challenge against State Government legislation amid fears of privatisation and outsourcing in the health system.

Together union secretary Alex Scott said the union had taken the "unprecedented step" because it feared the government had ulterior motives in the health sector for ramming through "an ideological attack" on public sector job security through the Public Service Act and Industrial Relations Act introduced last week..

Employment and industrial lawyer Andrew Rich, acting for Together, said the State Government passed legislation in an attempt to defeat the union's Supreme Court action challenging the directives the Public Service Commissioner had issued which resulted in removing job security for public servants.

"The legislation now provides that clauses about contracting, employment security and organisational change in existing certified agreements are of no effect," Mr Rich said.

"We will argue that the legislation breaches the separation of powers in the Queensland Constitution in that it interferes with concluded judicial proceedings by overriding agreements certified by the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission.

"We also argue that the legislation undermines the integrity and the appearance of independence and impartiality of the QIRC and therefore also contravenes the Australian Constitution."

Attorneys-general in other states must be notified when the Australian constitution is challenged.

Mr Scott said the court action would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars but it was "a matter we take gravely seriously".

"Our union will leave no stone unturned in defence of public sector workers and public sector services," he said.

"This legislation, we believe, is unlawful and we're taking this unprecedented action because we believe this government is about to declare open season on the public health system.

"Today will be the first step in a long process to prove the unconstitutionality of this legislation.

"Our concern is that this legislation is fundamentally about the ability of the government to privatise, outsource or contract out our hospitals."

A spokesman for the Health Minister said there would be better efficiencies sought through a closer alliance with the private sector within the health system.

But he said the union was "starting bushfires" through speculation without having all the details.

The spokesman said Queensland Health was seeking feedback on its corporate restructure but there was no set date for that to end.

He said the government would release its plan after the people most affected by any changes had their say and were notified first.

The case was mentioned in the Brisbane Supreme Court on Friday (aug31) and is expected to heard again on September 28.

Topics:  job cuts public sector state government together union

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