The NSW government on Thursday flagged plans to sell off publicly owned Illawarra company Pillar Administration, which employs almost 700 people at its Coniston headquarters.
Annoucing his plans to ‘‘investigate future options’’ for Pillar, Treasurer Mike Baird said any privatisation deal would be designed to protect the superannuation firm’s employees, as well as ensuring the long-term future of the company.
‘‘The NSW government is examining the best way to protect jobs and secure Pillar’s long-term future in the Illawarra, in an increasingly competitive environment,’’ Mr Baird said.
‘‘Over the past six months, Pillar has worked hard to improve its financial performance and productivity to better compete with private sector providers that have the scale to drive lower costs.
‘‘The government wants to ensure that Pillar meets the needs of their superannuation fund clients and their members.’’
Mr Baird said the company required significant investment of around $30 million in its IT systems and property, which would eat into the government’s ability to invest in ‘‘core government services’’.
“The private sector has a greater capacity to invest in the future of Pillar,’’ he said.
‘‘Avoiding these costs would allow the government to focus on putting its limited funds into critical road, school and hospital projects across NSW.’’
He added that any transaction would include protections for the employees at Pillar.
Despite this promise, the Public Services Association representing many of the workers on Thursday voiced concerns about Pillar’s possible privatisation.
‘‘Once something is sold it’s pretty hard to ensure too many protections,’’ PSA assistant secretary Steve Turner said.
‘‘Our union is concerned about privatisation as a whole and about what it would do to the jobs both at Pillar and within the Illawarra because these types of functions and other financial institutions quite regularly get outsourced overseas.
‘‘We see that the Treasurer has given a guarantee of employment but the best guarantee ... would be to keep it in public ownership.’’
He said the PSA would wait to see the terms of reference of the government’s scoping study and would be making a submission for the government not to consider privatisation.
Wollongong MP Noreen Hay was unavailable for comment because she is overseas, however she has been a vocal opponent to the privatisation of Pillar in the past.
Last year, she submitted a request to the NSW Parliament, asking the government rule out a sale of Pillar because it would risk employees’ jobs.
Mr Baird said the government would immediately establish a Pillar Steering Committee supported by external advisors and expected to consider the findings of the committee’s scoping study early next year.