Bitter divisions have erupted over plans to freeze public servants’ wages, with ministers exchanging terse words over the proposal.
Bitter divisions have erupted over plans to freeze public servants’ wages, with ministers exchanging terse words over the proposal.

Government at war over public service pay freeze

BITTER divisions have erupted within the Palaszczuk Government over plans to freeze the wages of Queensland's public sector workforce for a year.

The Courier-Mail can reveal the Government's Cabinet meeting on Monday descended into a raucous affair, with terse words exchanged by ministers over whether to push ahead with the wage freeze.

Ahead of the October 31 election, Labor-affiliated unions have been heavily pressuring ministers and backbenchers to ditch the proposed freeze which Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced on breakfast television in April, taking many senior party figures by surprise.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk surprised senior Labor figures by announcing a pay freeze for public servants. Picture: AAP Image/Darren England
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk surprised senior Labor figures by announcing a pay freeze for public servants. Picture: AAP Image/Darren England

It is understood Ms Palaszczuk argued in Cabinet that the Government should proceed with legislation to mandate the freeze from July 1 after failing to get agreement from unions.

However, some ministers believe the Government should promise to backdate the pay rise, guaranteeing tens of thousands of public servants a five per cent pay hike in 2021.

Several sources have told The Courier-Mail that this position was supported by Treasurer Cameron Dick, a member of the Australian Workers' Union which stridently opposed the freeze.

A decision on how to proceed was postponed.

It comes as the Premier yesterday said there was no legislation at this stage, while not ruling out that pay rises could be deferred.

There's also now uncertainty around whether the freeze will begin next month, despite the Government having committed to it on several occasions.

 

Treasurer Cameron Dick is understood to support a backdated pay rise for public servants. Picture: Stewart McLean
Treasurer Cameron Dick is understood to support a backdated pay rise for public servants. Picture: Stewart McLean

 

Asked whether she could guarantee the freeze would be in place by July 1, Ms Palaszczuk said her Government hadn't made its final decision.

Pressed further on the Government's commitment, the Premier said, "Yeah well we're having discussions and I will update everyone as soon as we've made a decision."

The Courier-Mail has previously revealed the Government had written to the Queensland Council of Unions outlining the July 1 date, acknowledging there had been administrative delays in wage adjustment applications because of COVID-19.

Mr Dick also told Parliament it would be in place in time for the new financial year.

"We made it clear, and the Premier has made it clear, that there will be a wage freeze for the financial year 2020-21," he said on May 20.

"There will be a wage freeze."

The Courier-Mail also understands the AWU is planning further strike action next Tuesday, while from Saturday several indefinite work bans on some activities at various hospitals will begin.

Originally published as Government at war over public service pay freeze


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