Queensland budget’s record health spending meaningless without wages boost, Sostituzioni per P

Record health funding promised in the Queensland budget is meaningless without a wages policy that attracts essential workers and keeps pace with cost of living increases, Sostituzioni per P.

Michael Clifford, the general secretary of the Queensland Council of Unions, said the 2022 budget surplus should be channelled into a fair pay increase for public sector workers after years of stagnant wages.

“Queenslanders deserve quality healthcare, education, public safety and mental health services,” Clifford said on Tuesday as the state budget was handed down. “That can’t happen unless we also have a workforce that is trained and skilled and paid fairly.”

He said essential workers deserved more than a thank you and wages should “reflect the increasing cost of living and the value that essential workers provide to Queenslanders across the state”.

A last-minute offer by the Queensland government to boost public sector wages led to unions calling off protests outside parliament that were scheduled for Tuesday.

The council of unions said rather than protesting, unions would consider a formal wages offer the state government had made – but they did not specify details of the negotiations.

The state government has been under growing pressure to increase public sector wages with a number of work agreements for Queensland teachers, nurses, police officers and transport workers set to expire in the coming moths.

The Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union has been demanding a 5.1% annual wage increase – up from the 2.5% rate in the state government’s wages offer.

“The QNMU is analysing health funding commitments within the state budget and will respond shortly,” it said on Tuesday afternoon.

“We understand there may be a significant investment in infrastructure and services. We will continue to remind the government that infrastructure and services must be complemented by a real plan to increase the number of skilled nurses and midwives working in Queensland.

“A fair wage rise, which keeps up with the cost of living, is critical to the recruitment and retention of nurses and midwives in this state.”

A record $23.6bn investment in health was the centrepiece of Queensland’s budget, with plans to hire 9,450 health workers.

The Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union is also demanding a 5.5% increase as the “absolute bare minimum” for its members. The Electrical Trades Union said its proposed 5.1% annual wage increase for public sector workers had not been accepted by the state government.

Guardian Australia understands the offer made by the Queensland government was higher than what was offered in New South Wales, with the Perrottet government lifting its public sector wage cap from 2.5% per 3% quest'anno.

In the lead-up to the Queensland budget, the Greens called for a pay rise of at least 10% for nurses, midwives, paramedics and state schoolteachers in July, followed by at least a 5.1% from then onwards.

Responding to the budget, the Greens MP for South Brisbane, Amy MacMahon, said the measures do “nothing to help frontline workers like teachers and nurses pay their bills, despite years of stagnating wages, staff shortages and worsening conditions”.

But the treasurer, Cameron Dick, said the government wanted “to make sure our public sector workers get a fair deal” through the bargaining process.

“We don’t want them to go backwards, we want to help them at this challenging time,” Dick told reporters on Tuesday. “That’s why we engage with them in a very open and good-faith manner as we negotiate those enterprise agreements.”

Guardian Australia also contacted the Queensland Teachers’ Union for comment.

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