Protests taking toll on government

Victoria makes "small" concession on cuts to community social services as activists rally across from legislature

As more than 100 community social services workers, clients and their families protested against cuts to services Wednesday in Victoria, finance minister Gary Collins told reporters that his government wouldn't cut social programs as deeply as originally planned.

And while the finance minister says growing public pressure had nothing to do with the decision to restore about $500 million in spending, HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt says that escalating protests around the province are testing the resolve of the Campbell Liberals.

"This government has not backed off its plans to massively cut health care, community social services and other critical public services," says Allnutt. "But Collins' move to restore a small amount of funding to the Ministry of Children and Family Development and other social ministries is a clear signal that protests across the province are beginning to have an impact.

"And there's been no sign at all that government is rethinking its plans to roll-back our signed collective agreements. They're drafting the legislation - the only question is timing.

"We need to change their minds by raising the political price of attacking front-line workers and services,” adds Allnutt. “That means keeping the pressure up, continuing to build local coalitions and being creative in our protests.”

The Campbell Liberals have plunged 22 per cent in their public approval rating in recent months.

In keeping with the theme of Wednesday's rally at the offices of the Public Sector Employers' Council - stop the flood of cuts - protesters "sandbagged" the offices and later blocked the busy street across from the legislature.