Frontline well being workers in Queensland have been denied a promised pay enhance because they agreed to prioritise coronavirus preparations forward of finalising an industrial settlement, their union says.
Last week, the Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, blindsided the union movement and introduced throughout a tv interview that agreed public sector pay will increase have been “on hold” amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Alex Scott, the secretary of the Together union that represents a lot of the state’s public service, mentioned frontline well being professionals had trusted the federal government to not “rat on the deal” for higher pay, agreed in precept final 12 months.
The deal would have given hospital workers in Queensland – excluding medical doctors and nurses, who’ve a separate settlement – their first pay enhance in two years.
“They know they’ll be putting their lives at risk every day (during the pandemic) and they are not going to do anything that will compromise their ability to help, which is why they’re so disappointed and angry,” Scott mentioned.
The union says the method for certifying a pay deal for well being workers ought to have concluded prior to now. But that course of was delayed because the state well being division, the union and workers all agreed that doubtlessly life-saving preparations for the well being system to deal with the influence of the coronavirus ought to take absolute precedence.
“Apart from flattening the curve, the other thing we need to do is increase health capacity to meet the pandemic … essentially retooling the whole health system,” Scott mentioned.
“That has meant that up till now we’ve de-prioritised the method across the certification of the settlement and prioritised what’s pressing to wish to save lots of lives.
“(The course of to certify the settlement) had not been prioritised by the company because they have been coping with shopping for new testing machines, the provision chain, private protecting tools and so forth. We’re very eager to verify there’s sufficient PPE.
“Given the nature of the pandemic, they only had so much to get done within the timeframe and from a policy point of view we thought that was the right thing for government to do as long as they didn’t rat on the deal with the public sector workforce to give them a pay increase.”
Queensland authorities sources say many Labor MPs have been unaware that Palaszczuk would announce the pay freeze final Thursday. She made the touch upon morning tv when requested about an opinion column on the difficulty within the Courier-Mail.
One state Labor MP mentioned he thought the choice might have been mentioned or negotiated with unions earlier than being introduced “rather than falling into this pattern that seems to be emerging of jumping quickly to avert outrage from News Corp”.
“What is telling for me is that the unions didn’t know,” the MP mentioned. “If this was anything other than a knee-jerk to criticism then you can guarantee we’d have sat the unions down first and explained the situation, even asked for their help.”
Palaszczuk’s workplace didn’t reply to a request for remark.
Scott mentioned the union was acutely aware of broader financial pressures on the state price range, however was nonetheless ready to debate the matter and objected to the method of “negotiation by press release”. He wouldn’t rule out some kind of industrial motion as a “last resort” however mentioned workers wouldn’t take any motion that affected the well being response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our preference would be to talk it through and come up with a solution through a clear and transparent process,” Scott mentioned.
“If we are able to’t get that readability we’ll take a look at our choices at that stage. Health workers are going to be placing their very own lives in danger … no matter we will we’ll be placing the Queensland group first.
“The pandemic hasn’t hit yet and we want to be making sure we can get these issues resolved so we can continue to have a laser focus rather than being distracted by industrial problems or the economic problems that our workers are going to face because they haven’t had the conditions they were guaranteed last year. These are low-paid workers, a lot of their partners have lost their jobs and they need the back pay.”
The Greens MP Michael Berkman mentioned Labor had been taking coverage recommendation from the previous premier Campbell Newman, who had been calling for the pay freeze, and the Courier-Mail.
“It’s a slap in the face for the heroes fighting this pandemic on the front line to learn that they’re getting a real wage cut while the premier’s own staff have already received their backpay,” Berkman mentioned.
“They’re going after public servants, including hospital cleaners, porters, catering staff and the call centre workers on the Covid-19 response line, because they’re too afraid to go after the mining companies and big corporations who are still not paying their fair share.”