Local nurses, teachers, aged care and community workers will gather in Grafton this evening to launch a campaign for a better future for residents of northern NSW. 

Clarence Valley Community Unions Activist John Hickson said people on the north coast feel left behind and are fed up with the Liberal government’s attacks on their living standards.

“As a community we’ve had enough of the Abbott-Turnbull government’s cuts to pensions, the introduction of unaffordable University fees, attacks on Medicare, cuts to public services and their lack of vision for jobs in the Clarence Valley region,” Mr Hickson said.

“One of the biggest worries for our local community is the lack of investment in health services and the federal government’s continued attack on Medicare. 

“Here in Grafton a large percentage of our population is over 50 so we need good quality, affordable healthcare and every day I see this being chipped away. The Abbott-Turnbull government has ripped billions in health funding from NSW over the past two years and is continuing to attack the universality of Medicare. 

“By ripping much needed funds from our already struggling public health system they are reducing it to a safety net and making people think that private health cover and private hospitals are the only solutions for healthcare. This will eventually lead us to an Americanised user-pays system. Good quality healthcare shouldn’t depend on how much you can pay; many patients on the north coast wouldn’t be able to afford it that way.”

Mr Hickson said the community is also worried about the future of their youth with employment participation rates at 58.6%, well below the state average of 64.2%.

“We want to know where the jobs plan is for our region. Where is the investment in job creation, skills and training?

“Our education system is under attack from Liberal governments at both a state and federal level. Our TAFE courses have been cut to the core. Couple this with the federal government’s U-turn on Gonski reforms and the introduction of $100,000 degrees and what chance do our children have?”  

The Abbott-Turnbull government has cut $1 billion from skills and training, $66 million in support for adult apprentices and $43 million to equip jobseekers with basic skills and training, further alienating the thousands of jobseekers on the north coast.

“As community activists it is our role to get out there and make our voices heard. People do have the power to shift their decision makers and today’s launch is just the beginning of our battle to build a better future for our community.” 

Workers are also angered at the recent debate over penalty rates and are challenging Federal National MP Kevin Hogan and Prime Minster Malcolm Turnbull to bring on the fight.

Sue Moss is a disability worker who relies heavily on the penalty rates she earns for working unsociable hours, without them she said she would lose 30 percent of her weekly income.

“The difference to me would be whether I can pay an electricity bill or my mortgage repayments, not to mention the everyday cost of living.

“Every time we have a Coalition government we are forced to defend our rights at work and frankly I find it a bit rich that those on 200k a year can morally expect some of the lowest paid workers in society to take a 30 percent pay cut.

“The disability sector is a growing sector and the job is extremely demanding; we need to earn a decent wage in order to attract and retain quality staff. The good people who work in this industry love the job they do and are giving back to the community; they deserve respect and a decent wage.”

Unions NSW Secretary Mark Lennon who will launch the event said penalty rates are extremely important for local workers and local economies particularly in regional areas.

“Despite a push from the business lobby and the federal government to scrap penalty rates on weekends, this is an unfair solution to the problems for small businesses and will not address unemployment levels in regional areas.

"Penalty rates are extremely important in keeping the economy healthy.

“The best way to support local businesses is to ensure workers are earning a decent wage so they can spend that money in their local communities keeping those businesses thriving.

“If you work nights or weekends, we believe you should get compensated for that and that’s what our community supports.”

What: Clarence Valley Community Unions launch Build a Better Future campaign
Where: Ex-Serviceman’s Club, Wharf Street, South Grafton
When: Wednesday 14 October 2015 @ 6pm 

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