• Cheek

Something bad has gone down in the NT

Northern Territory Chief Minister (equivalent to a state premier) Michael Gunner has threatened mass job cuts for public servants. This will include teachers, health workers, and staff of all government-owned corporations that supply resources like power and water across the Territory.

The public sector is the biggest employer in the NT, with almost 10% of the entire population working for the government. Gunner was re-elected in mid-2020, and by November, he had made an announcement that garnered a response of mass outrage. The NT took a hit economically during the worst of COVID, as did every other jurisdiction in the country, but the NT government had a plan unlike any other state or territory to recoup the losses.

The plan was to freeze wages for all public sector employees for four years. The cost of living in the NT is rising rather rapidly, so this pay freeze, even with the $1000 yearly bonus they were offered, would mean an effective pay cut, taking into account the rising cost of living, which accounts for the price of goods and services every household needs to carry on - groceries, rent, fuel, etc. And when this plan was announced, it was indicated that the choices were to take the wage freeze, or face mass job cuts.

So the options for NT public servants were as follows:

  1. Take an effective pay cut for four years (at least)

  2. Get laid off

  3. Luck out as one of the people who kept their job and work to the bone to make up for understaffing

The NT government has literally put the burden of improving the fucking economy onto workers. Which is totally fucking whack. And it doesn't work, because workers who are stretched financially, unemployed due to layoffs, or unable to find a job because there's a shortage, are NOT GOING TO BE INJECTING MONEY INTO THE FUCKING ECONOMY. That is literally the very basic premise of a healthy economy.

This week, Territory workers voted on the proposal from the government, which was part of an enterprise bargaining agreement negotiation. This is an agreement between the employer and workers where both parties agree on the conditions of their work. The workers voted overwhelmingly against the pay freeze, and the Chief Minister has now threatened massive job cuts.

Now hopefully this is shocking to you. But you know what is just as shocking, if not more so?

Nobody seems to fucking care.

The Northern Territory is the third biggest jurisdiction in the nation in terms of landmass, however is home to only 9.6% of the population. The rest of the country frankly doesn't give a shit about what's happening in the NT. Aside from that family member who brags about climbing Uluru 'before it was banned,' you probably never hear about what's going on up there. Mainstream media don't often report on NT news and issues, and this one is no different.

Imagine, just IMAGINE if this happened in Queensland, or Victoria, or, god forbid, New South Wales. We'd never hear the bloody end of it. It's well known that the east coast of Australia is 'only part' anybody cares about, particularly the federal government, and it's true for the most part. But the NT is even more neglected than the states further west than Melbourne.

The Northern Territory is home to so much of our rich First Nations history and has the largest percentage of First Nations people living there. Much of the Territory is untouched land that's breathtaking, Uluru is one of the most iconic sights in our nation. So why don't we give a shit? Why don't we talk about the issues, where can we read about the stories? How does so much go unreported on a national scale?

What's going on for workers in the Territory right now is outrageous. It's horrific. It's not based in healthy economic policy. This is not the first time such an event has gone undetected in our smallest jurisdtiction. And it sure as hell won't be the last.