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SA Treasurer Rob Lucas’s refusal yesterday to rule out further privatisation of health services and job cuts in hospitals has shocked workers who help care for South Australia’s ill, elderly and most vulnerable.

Mr Lucas’s admission he was open to privatising vital public health services and inevitable job cuts was a betrayal of the South Australian community, United Workers Union public sector director Demi Pnevmatikos said today.

“In the midst of a global pandemic, the Treasurer finally has revealed the secret plan that the community has been fearful of all along,” Ms Pnevmatikos said.

“The Marshall Liberal Government is not ruling out privatisation – that’s why they want to attack the conditions and safeguards for South Australian workers.”

Ms Pnevmatikos said Mr Lucas’s open discussion about privatisation options was a stark contrast to Mr Marshall’s statement ahead of the 2018 election that the Marshall Liberal Government did not have a “privatisation agenda”.

“At a time when we need our public health services most, this government will not rule out privatisation. They will not rule out job cuts,” Ms Pnevmatikos said.

“The fact the Treasurer could even consider privatisation and job cuts in the midst of the current health crisis is unconscionable and puts the community on a dangerous path.”

Ms Pnevmatikos said the comments by Mr Lucas revealed the Marshall Liberal Government was hell-bent on privatising public sector health services, no matter the damage to workers or communities.

Health heroes work in vital health roles including as hospital cleaners, patient services assistants, orderlies working in operating theatres and intensive care units, food services, sterilisation technicians, disability support workers and aged care workers, including in remote and regional areas.

They are fighting for job security – to retain all current conditions and protecting the provisions in their current agreement – and a fair wage increase with back pay.

On ABC’s Riverland Radio service yesterday (EDS: 8:43) Mr Lucas said when asked about possible privatisation of health services: “We’re leaving open the options in relation to that, in terms of what we have done in the last three years, clearly, in some areas, and what we might do in the future.”

Mr Lucas also discussed situations in which he would consider privatising health services and job cuts.

“It’s got to be the same level of service … I would have thought to your listeners if you can actually deliver the same quality of service but at a cheaper cost they would have very few concerns about that,” he told ABC Radio.

A South Australian Employment Tribunal hearing about industrial action by health workers is continuing.