Since 2011, all public sector employees receive a fixed pay increase of 2.5% in accordance to the NSW Government Wages Policy. This year, the NSW Government announced that public sector wages will be frozen because of the dire economic conditions resulting from the devastating impacts of the bushfires and COVID-19 pandemic on the NSW Government budgets.
Together with five public sector unions, the IEU appeared before the Full Bench of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission to challenge the NSW Government’s decision to freeze wages.
The Full Bench hearing was listed in response to 43 award applications made by the unions seeking 2.5% pay increase for their respective members which are due on 1 July 2020. In an unprecedented move by the Commission, it decided that all 43 award applications can be joined together in one Full Bench hearing where each union party can plead their case for the pay increase.
The joined proceedings were initially listed for two full day hearings before three members of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission. Given the volume of materials filed in the proceedings, the hearings did not conclude in the two days and has been listed for further hearings on 24, 30 and 31 July.
Although IEU members do not work in the public sector, we have both direct and indirect interests in this matter. Firstly, we are directly interested because we are a party in the matter. We represent the group of teachers who are employed by the NSW Ministry of Health to teach in early childhood centres attached to public hospitals. Second, like many other unions who intervened in the matter, we are deeply concerned about the implications of this decision on our greater memberships. After all, any decisions in the public sector will influence our bargaining position when we negotiate for our own enterprise agreements with our non government employers.
In either case, our involvement is warranted because we support our public sector comrades who have been at the frontline during these difficult times to get their hard-earned pay rise.