Queensland police and teachers’ unions vow to fight public sector pay freeze amid coronavirus


Two of Queensland’s most powerful unions are fighting the State Government’s plans to freeze all public servant pay rises in the coming financial year, amid the economic fallout from the pandemic.

Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said it was “absolutely unacceptable” for the Labor Government to wind back agreements that had already been made.

“A deal’s a deal, it’s a legally binding agreement and we would expect it to continue,” he said.

“We would expect an agreement which we negotiated in good faith, to be honoured by the Government.”

Police have been enforcing entry restrictions on the Queensland border as well as other coronavirus measures.(ABC News: Dominic Cansdale)

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the move last month, following a similar edict from the Brisbane City Council.

It is set to affect all state public sector agreements coming into effect from July 1, including a 2.5 per cent increase already secured for tens of thousands of teachers and police.

Members are expected to be given a vote on the proposition, with both union leaders baulking at the prospect.

If members are not willing to accept, the State Government would be forced to legislate the freeze but ABC News understands an option for a pay rise deferral is on the negotiating table.

President of the Queensland Teachers’ Union Kevin Bates said it was an unexpected move at a time when teachers are “working harder than they ever had”.

Two female high school students use a laptop at desks with a teacher overseeing.
Teachers have been supervising some students whose parents are essential workers while also teaching children who are learning at home.(ABC News: Tim Swanston)

“On top of that, to hear about the potential for a 2.5 per cent increase in salary to be denied to the entire teaching service is something that I think many teachers and principals will find hard to swallow.”

He said his members are unlikely to vote to accept the freeze.

“The feedback we’ve received anecdotally would be that our membership will be very split on this but I have my doubts that any ballot on this question will get up.”

Parent walks children in school uniform into Spring Mountain State School, west of Brisbane.
Some grades will return to school attendance on May 11, while others will need to wait a few more weeks.(ABC News: Tim Swanston)

A Parliamentary Committee today heard the move would save the Government about $500 million in the coming financial year.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said there were no plans to wind back the proposal.

“My understanding is the Federal Government is doing a six-month pay freeze, I am doing a 12-month pay freeze,” she said.

“There are people out there at the moment across Queensland who have lost their jobs.

“I know there are a lot of people out there who are unhappy about the pay freeze but I am committed to the 12-month pay freeze.”

Deputy Opposition Leader Tim Mander said the LNP would not seek to undo a pay rise halt if it took Government in the October election.

“The LNP agrees with Annastacia Palaszczuk that there should be a pay freeze for public servants but Annastacia Palaszczuk needs to be honest with Queenslanders about the commitment that she made,” he said.

“A pay deferral with eventual backpay is not a pay freeze,” he said.

Deputy Premier Jackie Trad said talks with the unions were ongoing.

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