Education: What does the 'wage freeze' legislation mean for you?

Posted on June 19, 2020

On Wednesday the state government voted for legislative amendments to the Industrial Relations Act 2016 to give effect to the Premier’s announcement that there would be a 'wage freeze' in the 2020/2021 financial year.

Together continues to oppose the 'wage freeze' policy.

We all know that Queenslanders and the Queensland economy are struggling as a result of the economic impact of the COVID19 pandemic. We also know that the government needs to stimulate the economy, and not repeat the failed economic austerity strategy that has failed time and again in response to similar economic circumstances of the past. 

The government's 'wage freeze' policy will strip millions of dollars out of the Queensland economy just at the time when the economy needs more assistance not less. Together is opposed to the government's 'wage freeze' as we believe it will damage the economy. The Centre for Future Work has published research to this effect earlier this year.

Together has always been fundamentally opposed to the use of legislation to override members' existing conditions, conditions which have been negotiated and then implemented as certified agreements. A deal is a deal. No employer should have the ability to unilaterally change existing agreements just because of a change to the economic environment.

If changes are required they should be negotiated with the workers affected, and this is what is happening with private sector employers and in other public sector jurisdictions.

Together members were also dismayed by the parliamentary process used to implement this. After over two months of negotiations about a possible wage freeze (or deferral or other proposals) the amendments to the Industrial Relations Act were attached to an unrelated bill relating to long service leave, this meant they could be rushed through Parliament in less than twenty-four hours with little or no scrutiny by the community or the workers affected by the legislation. The rush also avoided the normal Parliamentary Committee process to review legislation. This should be unacceptable for legislation which directly impacts over 200,000 Queensland workers and their families.

The legislation was passed by Parliament with government MPs and the Independent MP for Noosa voting in favour.

Together delegates and officials have lobbied over the last few months to ensure that this did not impact on your long awaited wages arbitration under the Department of Education Agreement.

The good news is that there is no change to the process agreed with you under the Department of Education Certified Agreement 2019 and no change to the fact that if the Award rate of pay goes up, for example as a result of the State Wage Case, so too will your wages.

The non-wage improvements won by you in the Education Agreement, such as reclassifications, will not be affected by these amendments.

Increments will continue to be paid, as and when they are due.

The State Wage Case and Award related processes are not touched by these amendments to the legislation.

This morning, we will see the result of the Annual Wage Review, that will then allow us to start the State Wage Case process.

As Together members know, there was no actual 2.5% pay rise coming to anyone other than Therapists under this Agreement. Everyone else was awaiting the outcome of the Wages Determination process that we were running in the Commission. Therapist members – we will update you separately about pay changes for you!

For everyone who is an AO, TO, OO and PO - the wages arbitration process agreed with you will proceed. This is a process to be determined by the independent Queensland Industrial Relations Commission. This is set out in s 2.10 of your Agreement and is called out in the new section 952D(2) of the amended Act.

While we are not happy about the legislation being passed it is important to see that the Award system has not been touched and that your rights to have your case heard in the Industrial Relations Commission continue. This is due to the strong representations of Together members in the last 9 weeks.

In breaking news just now – the Annual Wage Review has just been handed down by the Fair Work Commission – this is for 1.75% this year. We will be considering this decision now and then making application for the State Wage Case to start here in Queensland.

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