Public sector wage offer blasted as 'totally unacceptable' by Tasmanian unions

Updated February 28, 2019 14:51:54

Tasmania's biggest union has labelled a pay offer from the State Government, received moments before a press conference, as "pathetic" and "unacceptable".

Unions have been asking for a pay rise for workers of about three per cent a year, but until now, the government had been steadfastly sticking to its wage increase policy of two per cent a year.

Key points:

  • The Government is prepared to offer a 2 per cent wage rise in first year, 2.25 per cent in second year, and 2.5 per cent in third year
  • The new offer is dependant on increased worker efficiencies including changes to overtime pay, early retirement, and salary progression
  • Unions were meeting to announce escalations in their wages campaign

After months of negotiations and strike action by workers, Will Hodgman and Peter Gutwein have now written to unions saying the Government was prepared to revise its wages policy, subject to unions and their members agreeing to efficiencies.

The Government's new three-year offer is for an increase of 2 per cent in the first year, 2.25 per cent in the second year and 2.5 per cent in the third year.

In return for the pay rise, the Government has asked unions to agree to:

  • Scrap waiting time payments (where workers are paid an overtime rate if they're not paid on time)
  • No overtime payable to part-time staff until the equivalent of one hour full-time equivalent is worked (weekend penalty rates excluded)
  • A program of early retirement and public sector renewal of no greater than 150 positions
  • Performance-based salary progression being implemented in all awards
  • Removal of public holidays to align with other jurisdictions (eg. Easter Tuesday and regional half-day holidays)
  • A two-year review of the State Service to consider structural, legislative and cultural improvements

Mr Gutwein said there had been constructive discussions with unions in recent weeks.

"The Government is prepared to revise its wages policy, however we would need the unions and union members to agree to the measures that are being proposed," Mr Gutwein said.

"The measures that are being proposed are about improving the efficiency and productivity of the public sector.

"We believe it's a fair outcome, it meets the unions halfway, and we'd progress to that over the three-year wages deal

Offer 'reduces current conditions': union

Public sector unions said they received the new offer just minutes before a planned press conference to announce the escalation of industrial action.

Later, Robbie Moore from the Health and Community Service Union said he expected members would not accept the offer.

"We're very disappointed," Mr Moore said.

"We'll let members have a say on this, but I'm not expecting them to accept an offer that is pathetic and reduces their current conditions."

Mr Moore said a number of the suggested efficiencies were alarming, especially given the measures were expected to be implemented in the first year, when the pay rise would still be 2 per cent.

"To be taking away public holiday and penalty rates on public holidays for public sector workers is totally unacceptable and I know our members will reject that," he said.

He said members had indicated that if they did not receive an acceptable offer, they would be escalating industrial action.

"These negotiations have been going on for more than six months, so to now get an offer than reduces current entitlements is just absolutely unacceptable and the Government and Premier should hang their heads in shame."

Offer arrives 'minutes before press conference'

Australian Education Union state manager Roz Madsen had not had time to read the letter before the scheduled press conference.

"There was no need for this letter to be sent five minutes before a press conference as the deadline was clearly 12 o'clock yesterday," Ms Madsen said.

Ms Madsen said the union's executive would meet on Monday to discuss whether members would push ahead with industrial action, in light of the letter.

Thirza White from the Community and Public Sector Union accused the State Government of playing political games.

"We have 28 meetings with our members across the state this week and next week, where members will decide the action will take," she said.

Unions have been in negotiations with the State Government since the middle of last year, with strike action, protests and stop work meetings held throughout the year as bargaining stalled.

Topics: public-sector, government-and-politics, unions, tas, launceston-7250, hobart-7000

First posted February 28, 2019 12:07:40