‘Slap in the face’: unions demand higher wages for Queensland public servants as inflation bites

Queensland unions are calling for pay increases for public sector workers ahead of the state budget next week, with one union claiming anything less than a 5.5% yearly increase would be a “slap in the face”.

Inflation is expected to hit 7% by the end of this year but public sector workers across the state have been receiving annual wage increases of 2.5% for several years.

As inflation bites, the Palaszczuk government – like other states – is under increasing pressure to boost stagnant public sector wages.

The Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union is pushing for a 5.1% increase, saying workers deserve “more than praise” from the state government.

As part of the QNMU’s campaign, more than 5,500 union members have emailed the treasurer, Cameron Dick, to demand a pay rise.

“Queensland Health nurses and midwives deserve a 5.1% pay increase that meets the rising cost of living, not the 2.5% the state government has offered,” QNMU’s acting secretary Kate Veach said.

The president of the Queensland Teacher’s Union, Cresta Richardson, said the union has been negotiating a “replacement agreement for a number of months”.

“The QTU has … been clear that any new agreement must address the rising cost of living and include measures to address the teacher shortage,” Richardson said.

Dick said the government has been in negotiations with public sector unions, singling out nurses as workers who could expect a pay increase.

“We will be giving our nurses a decent pay increase, but that’s part of the bargaining process,” Dick said Thursday.

“We have always supported our public sector workers. Historically, we’ve provided wage increases that have been above cost of living.”

Peter Ong, state secretary of the Electrical Trades Union, said the union had proposed a 5.1% annual wage increase for public sector workers, which was not accepted by the state government.

“[The current annual increase is] not acceptable. And I’ve told government that I’m not prepared to take anything back to my members unless it has a four in it and an increase in superannuation at the very least,” Ong said.

Last week, the New South Wales government announced it would lift its wage-rise cap from 2.5% to 3%, which was criticised by unions as being too low. Public Service Association members went on strike across NSW after the announcement.

In Victoria, frustrated teachers have reportedly quit the Australian Education Union, accusing the union of delivering them a “pay cut” after they accepted a 2% annual pay rise over the next four years.

With current work agreements for Queensland teachers, nurses, police officers and transport workers set to expire in the coming moths, unions are pushing for a pay increase.

In Queensland, Alex Scott, secretary of the Together branch of the Australian Services Union, said he was also demanding a public sector wage increase “that keeps up with rising cost of living” but declined give further details.

“We are not putting a figure on it at the moment as inflation in Brisbane is 6%, but we are expecting the next quarter figures to be higher,” Scott said.

Scott said there will be joint union meetings with the United Workers Union and the ETU in Queensland after the state budget.

“We are also waiting to see what the federal treasurer says about his expectations for inflation are in his statement to parliament which he has flagged for July,” he said.

The Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union is also demanding a 5.5% increase as the “absolute bare minimum” for its members, who deliver frontline public services across the state.

Michael Ravbar, the CFMEU state secretary, said a 2.5% annual wage increase would be “totally obsolete” and cancelled out by the skyrocketing inflation rate.

“We will be campaigning for a minimum increase of 5.5%,” Raybar said.

“Anything less is a slap in the face to these frontline workers, and will make it harder to attract quality employees to the public sector in a very tight labour market.”

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