Unions representing NT Government workers say Chief Minister Michael Gunner lied about briefing them before making his surprise offer to give money saved by sacking 400 workers who chose not to be vaccinated to other public servants if they agreed to take a proposed four year pay freeze.
Mr Gunner made the revised proposal directly to public servants in an email Monday morning, cutting the unions out, and offering to increase his previous $1000 annual bonus to $4000 for the first year of a new contract and $2000 each year for the following three.
The previous $1000 offer was rejected by a majority of public servants earlier this year.
The pay freeze was estimated to save the government $424 million over four years – or $106 million a year.
Mr Gunner said $30 million a year would now be saved by sacking the 400 workers who disobeyed his vaccine mandate, but that their wages would instead be used to give the remaining 22,000 or so full-time public servants an extra $10,000 each over the course of the new EBA.
He did not explain how the cash-strapped government could afford the new offer, which would cost roughly $88 million in the first year alone.
The Australian Education Union NT said in a letter to its members that Mr Gunner was lying when he claimed that he had briefed the unions about the new offer.
“This is a lie – the AEU did not find [out] about the revised policy until the email was already on its way to employees,” the letter said.
“This is not good faith bargaining. Instead, the Chief Minister has sought to bypass unions and make an offer directly to employees, without first discussing his proposal with this union or any other.
“Make no mistake – the revised offer is still a four-year pay freeze. Signing up to this revised offer would leave you much worse off financially over the next four years, not to mention in the longer term, than we can achieve through persistence and united action.”
Community and Public Sector Union NT secretary Kay Densley told ABC Radio the new offer did not address the issue of a salary freeze.
“Salaries will stay the same over the four-year period and that’s still a concern to us and it’s a concern to a lot of our members,” she said.
Ms Densley also wrote to her members, informing them that the new offer was not yet formal and that the new bonuses would be taxable.
She also raised concerns about the impact on service delivery 400 job losses would create.
“The Government is trying to frame this change of heart as being made possible because 400 public servants are ending their employment due to vaccination mandates, however your overwhelming rejection of the recent offer has painted them into a corner and this is the result,” she wrote.
“We know that many of you are already overworked due to existing staffing shortfalls.”
The unions said an urgent meeting with the Commissioner for Public Employment had been arranged for later today, with the AEU saying they have asked that an employee ballot on the new wages offer not take place before the end of the year.
“Instead of rushing to a ballot, the employer should resume negotiations to allow for discussions on whether the revised wages policy will allow for negotiating pay increases rather than one off cash payments,” the AEU NT letter said.
Mr Gunner called for public servants to vote on his new offer before Christmas and claimed there would be “no impact on service delivery” as a result of sacking 400 public servants for not getting vaccinated.