The head of the union representing public servants says the Chief Minister refuses to meet over his proposed four-year pay freeze – touted as a crucial government cost saving measure – while the head of the Education Union said he has stopped trying after being rebuffed by Michael Gunner since he came to power.
Community and Public Sector Union regional secretary Kay Densley said she had written to Mr Gunner, who wrote back, but would not agree to meet with her.
“Well he has certainly refused [after] the letter that I sent him. Not so much in saying he wouldn’t meet with us but [not] enabling a meeting at all,” she told Mix 104.9.
“And he responded back saying he wants to save jobs and all the quotes he does in his media releases but there is no date for a meeting. The union wants to meet with him to talk about what we can do. We understand the economic situation.”
About 50 union members protested the new wages policy outside Parliament House on Tuesday after Mr Gunner announced in last month’s budget a four-year public service pay freeze that would see an annual $1000 “bonus” instead of a two per cent annual pay rise.
It’s already been budgeted for before any EBA negotiations start.
The wages policy is the biggest cut to recurrent spending in the budget, which he said would save $424 million over four years – or $106 million a year.
Mr Gunner ruled out any cuts to the continuously growing public service.
Australian Education Union NT branch president Jarvis Ryan told the ABC at the time, the changes to the wages policy was kept secret from public servants, although the government had previously given it “in principle” support.
When asked by host Katie Woolf if the CPSU still supported the Chief Minister, Ms Densley did not directly answer.
“Well, the Chief Minister needs to step up and talk with us,” she said.
“So when you say ‘do we support him?’, we don’t like what he’s doing to our members. Our members don’t agree with a four-year pay freeze and they would like him to talk to us as well.
“There’s a lot of problems we need to talk to him about.”
‘It’s frustrating not meeting with the people who make the decisions’: NTEU
The situation is not foreign to the Education Union, with Mr Ryan saying the Chief Minister has not met with them since he won government.
And he said his union would not bother to contact any minister to ask for a meeting.
Mr Ryan told the NT Independent Mr Gunner had always referred them to the Education Minister, despite his argument that it was a fiscal issue decided by the Chief Minister and the Treasurer.
He said they had met with the then Treasurer Nicole Manison last year but the talks “fizzled out fairly quickly.”
“We don’t have a relationship with the Chief Minister as a union,” he said.
“Our concern is that he makes decisions and then won’t meet with us to explain those decisions.
“It’s frustrating when we would like to meet with the people making the decisions, to talk about whether there are alternatives, and there doesn’t seem to be any appetite by senior government ministers to sit down and work through these matters with the union.
“We found that bringing things up with the Education Minister doesn’t bear much fruit because the Education Minister doesn’t appear to have any input on budgetary matters and this very much appears to be a decision made by Michael Gunner as the Treasurer and Chief Minister.
“And I would be interested to know how much buy-in there has been from his cabinet let alone backbenchers in the government.”
Mr Ryan said they had made their position clear that a four year wage freeze was not acceptable and his members would not stand for it.
He said teachers had just received the final 2.5 per cent rise from the current agreement which expires in October next year, and they would begin bargaining for the next agreement about May.
Mr Ryan would not rule out taking protected industrial action if they did not get a fair pay increase.
Mr Gunner’s office did not respond to a request for comment.