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Teachers demand answers on Government's planned pay freeze

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With the last home-based students returning to school on Monday, after months of disruption, the Queensland Teachers’ Union still doesn’t know what its members will be paid.

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Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk agreed to a public service pay freeze in April, amid similar moves by other governments and a campaign by The Courier-Mail tabloid newspaper.

Palaszczuk was later forced to clarify that increases negotiated by the United Voice union would go ahead and the freeze would apply “from financial year to financial year, that’s how a pay freeze operates”.

The Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union, which has the most members of any state-based industrial organisation, received its 2.5 per cent increase on April 1.

However, teachers are not due to receive their 2.5 per cent increase until July 1. The QTU wrote to Palaszczuk on Friday seeking urgent clarity on the proposed policy and how it will apply to all aspects of their enterprise bargaining agreement.

The Government has yet to legislate for a freeze, six weeks before it is due to come into effect, and the QTU would need to conduct a ballot of members to rescind the deal already negotiated and voted on.

Union vice-president Cresta Richardson said Queensland teachers had demonstrated extraordinary resilience and adaptability during the pandemic, having to deliver classes in different ways and under pressure.

“We have written to the premier arguing against any wage freeze or deferral and have yet to receive a response,” Richardson said, on behalf of the union’s 46,750 members.

“All we know at the moment is what’s been around in the media.”

A spokesman for Education and Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said “the Government is continuing to negotiate in good faith with public sector unions regarding the wage freeze”.

After the government this week announced another economic stimulus package, Richardson suggested that paying teachers what they deserved would allow them to spend more of what they earn.

A blanket freeze across government could save the budget $500 million a year.

In recent weeks, the government has reappointed the director-general of the Department of Premier and Cabinet for three years on the same annual package of $750,000, which Palaszczuk’s office said was in line with the freeze. Two other directors-general have also been moved into new positions with no change to their remuneration or five-year contracts, while the Remuneration Tribunal will allow MPs to carry forward unspent allowances to the 2020-21 election year.

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