State government introduces legislation to defer wage rises

The State Government introduced legislation yesterday to defer public sector workers’ wage rises for the 2020-2021 financial year.

This follows the Premier’s announcement on April 2 that everything is “on hold” in relation to public sector pay rises and public sector bargaining.

Unions representing public sector workers affiliated to the Queensland Council of Unions have consistently argued against a wage freeze for public sector workers.

QCU General Secretary Michael Clifford said these workers have been on the frontline of the pandemic or have been supporting those on the frontline.

“They have been making enormous sacrifices to keep us all safe and did not deserve a pay freeze,” he said.

“The deferral now proposed by the Government will mean that workers will still receive the same pay increases over the life of their Agreement. By strongly opposing a pay freeze, unions have been able to eliminate the significant ongoing loss and will restore wages to where they should have been by 2022,” he said.

“The QCU welcomes government commitments around job security and we will pursue further discussions to determine how the public sector can provide secure jobs that our communities, especially our regional communities, can depend on.

“No-one wants to return to the days of Campbell Newman where thousands of public sector workers were sacked, seeing lives and communities devastated. Secure jobs and decent wages are fundamental to our economic recovery.”

He also welcomed the Government’s commitment to pay outstanding increases from 2019.

“Unions argued that this was essential. If these increases were not paid, those workers would have been without a pay increase for up to three years,” he said.

“QCU is very concerned about the use of legislation to impose deferrals. We are never in favour of using legislation to override existing certified agreements. The current rules give workers a say before amending agreements. We understand that these are extraordinary times but these rules should be respected. Agreements should never be unilaterally altered by the employer,” he said. 

Mr Clifford noted reports today of the Queensland LNP’s opposition to a pay freeze.

“We’re pleased they’ve sided with the union movement on this but their position is confusing. They said in April and earlier this month that there should be a pay freeze so they need to address that contradiction.

“Workers will also want to know how they will treat agreements that have not yet been certified and if they will honour outstanding pay increases within those agreements. They also need to be up front about how they will treat agreements that are soon to be renegotiated.

“In their last term in Government, the LNP used legislation to strip away many important workplace rights, including job security protections, and they slashed workers’ compensation. They intended these as permanent changes, not temporary deferments.

“How can we believe their commitments today given that just before they took Government last time, they said that public sector workers would be safe, and then they cut more than 14,000 jobs?” he asked.

“We need answers to all these questions before we can form a view on their bona fides,” Mr Clifford said.

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