Has time run out for EB negotiations?

The new state government has suggested that any pay rise for teachers could come at a heavy price – including many of the improvements in working conditions won by QTU members over the past two decades.

The government has a policy of restricting public sector wages growth to 3 per cent a year, but this is to come from a combination of pay increases, additional employees as a result of growth or election promises and job losses, so even the 3 per cent is not guaranteed.

The head of public sector wage bargaining, newly appointed by the LNP government, has informed the QTU that this “generous pay offer” is also conditional on the removal of “complicating provisions” from the agreement.

What that means in practice is unclear, although information received subsequently suggests that it could apply to matters addressed in policy, directives and other industrial instruments, such as the award. Whether we regard these provisions as essential as opposed to “complicating” remains to seen.

The QTU was told that teachers would be immune from the job cuts affecting much of the rest of the public service and that they should “take this into account” when assessing any salary offer.

It was also revealed that once an in-principle agreement is reached, increases will only be back-dated until the beginning of the month in which that agreement is reached. This means that if agreement is not reached until after 31 July, increases will not be backdated to 1 July, the day after the current agreement expires, impacting on the calculation of superannuation benefits for members in a defined benefit scheme who are planning to retire in the next two years.

The department has been unable to say what the base pay offer would be if the QTU rejects the government’s productivity proposals.

In response to the developments, State Council decided that the Union should:

  • hold a series of area meetings before the end of term two to inform members of the state of the negotiations and the potential scenarios
  • hold a school-based ballot on any available offer before 31 July
  • include options for industrial action in that ballot.

A new enterprise bargaining agreement in schools is due on 1 July. Negotiations for a replacement agreement were due to begin no later than 1 April, but as the Journal went to press, the government still has not approved a list of issues that the department is to negotiate with the QTU.

The department is unable to negotiate and time is running out.

Kate Ruttiman
Deputy General Secretary

Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 117 No 4, 1 June 2012, p9