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Teachers threaten to abandon NAPLAN, work to rule over pay freeze

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The influential Queensland Teachers’ Union will ask its members to vote on industrial action next school term – the last before the Palaszczuk government seeks re-election.

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After weeks of speculation and backroom negotiations, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Tuesday confirmed the Labor Government would legislate to freeze public sector wages during 2020-21. That will deny teachers, police and other workers their negotiated pay increases until the following financial year.

Palaszczuk said the move would allow the Government to divert around half a billion dollars into economic stimulus, however unions have complained that it punishes the public sector workers who have been at the frontline of the health response. The Liberal National Party opposition belatedly changed its position to oppose the the freeze, ostensibly due to how the government has handled it, however unions were cynical.

QTU president Kevin Bates today said the union would likely conduct a ballot of members on July 15 to determine a way forward. He emphasised that the teachers and principals who managed the classroom disruptions during the early stages of the pandemic would continue to put students first.

“This is not going to bring any collateral damage for students,” Bates told InQueensland.

Bates said union members might opt for a “work-to-rule” campaign, avoiding the additional work, such as school reviews, that were built into the enterprise bargaining agreement in exchange for pay rises.

“From our perspective, NAPLAN is on the list,” Bates said.

“It’s not going to hurt students not to do NAPLAN.”

Teachers set to be paid an extra 2.5 per cent from next month will instead receive the increase in July next year, followed by another catch-up pay rise six months later.

Bates warned the freeze may make Queensland less competitive in the race to secure and retain teachers as other states would pay staff more.

“Queensland looks like it will be on its own on doing this and for the next 18 months … we’ll be at a disadvantage competitively with other parts of the nation,” Bates said.

The Together Union has threatened to campaign on the issue ahead of the October 31 election – Palaszczuk has said the LNP would treat public servants worse – while the Queensland Council of Unions expressed concern the government had chosen to legislate the freeze.

“We are never in favour of using legislation to override existing certified agreements,” said QCU general secretary Michael Clifford.

“The current rules give workers a say before amending agreements. We understand that these are extraordinary times but these rules should be respected. Agreements should never be unilaterally altered by the employer.”

The Queensland Police Union could not be contacted today.

Meanwhile, Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath the election would not be conducted fully through the use of postal votes, however legislative amendments would provide the Electoral Commission of Queensland more flexibility to manage any health risks. D’Ath said the government would ensure there were enough postal ballots for all electorates as a contingency.

Other election changes include a likely cap on campaign expenditure that Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington has warned will only advantage Labor. Parliament is also due to debate legislation that would allow ministers to be punished for undisclosed conflicts of interest, with the government opting to require dishonest intent rather than the broader scope proposed by the Crime and Corruption Commission.

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