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Senior staffers furious they face five years without a pay rise

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Public servants are getting a pay rise and now politicians are too. Between those groups, however, senior officers say they have been left behind – and they’re angry about it.

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In March, the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission signed off on a long-argued agreement for more than 60,000 public servants, granting them as many as four successive increases of 2.5 per cent.

That agreement prompted the independent Remuneration Tribunal to revisit MP salaries, which had been frozen in 2020 with the support of Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and then-Opposition leader Deb Frecklington. At the time, the freeze brought politicians into line with public servants, and would have lasted up to four years had the agreement not changed the tribunal’s review cycle.

On Monday, the tribunal released a determination that politicians receive increases to their base and additional salary rates: 2 per cent on 1 September 2021, 2.25 per cent on 1 March 2022, and 2.5 per cent from 1 September 2022.

Palaszczuk appeared loathe to talk about it, other than to say public servants would be getting bigger pay rises than politicians. While media pressure last year brought about the freeze, the Premier would not be drawn on whether the determination was justified.

“I don’t make these decisions, the independent Remuneration Tribunal does,” Palaszczuk said on Tuesday.

But if the Premier was hoping the issue would go away, she should take another look at the industrial relations landscape.

The powerful Together union yesterday ramped up its campaign for Senior Officers to be granted a pay rise. The group of more than 1,000 government employees has not had a pay rise since September 2017, with rates slipping behind other public sector groups in Queensland and interstate.

The union’s branch secretary, long-time public service advocate Alex Scott, said the government had allowed disparities to worsen, to the point where some managers are now supervising staff who are paid more than them.

“The government has accepted public servants need a pay rise,” Scott said.

“The government says that politicians deserve a pay rise.  The government needs to act now to ensure that the pay increases are flowed on to all public servants as a matter of urgency.”

The union is rallying members and has distributed a petition to build support for its call on the government and Public Service Commissioner to intervene.

“To not act on these pay increases now will be deeply hypocritical and this long standing issue needs to resolved, now,” Scott said.

Flow-on payrises will add to expenditure in the budget, which in recent years has carried a heavier burden from the Labor government hiring more people than the former Liberal National Party administration.

The March decision had already been factored into the budget but it remains unclear how much more it, and this week’s tribunal determination, will cost taxpayers.

Under the determination, a backbencher on a base salary alone will get an extra $7,801 annually by the middle of the parliamentary term. For committee members, whips, Opposition spokespeople, leaders, and ministers, there will be even more for their added responsibilities. At the very top, the Premier’s salary will increase from $399,955 to $427,561, which is still less than the Victorian and NSW premiers are paid now.

Treasurer Cameron Dick will hand down the budget on June 15.

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