Members would have seen in the media that Premier Rockliff has announced his intention to make a one-off $2,000 payment to certain frontline health workers to ‘acknowledge the extraordinary efforts’ they have made during the pandemic. While we welcome the Premier doing more than just expressing his thanks to public sector workers who got our state through the pandemic, there are more questions about what was announced than answers.
Who will get the payment?
Well, we know it won’t be paid to anyone outside the Tasmanian Health Service (THS), so that excludes Biosecurity officers who kept our airports and seaports running throughout the pandemic. It also excludes anyone in schools who has worked directly with kids who have been largely unvaccinated. It excludes correctional officers and other prison service staff who cared for and supported inmates with COVID and likewise Ashley Youth Detention Staff. It excludes Service Tasmania staff who have kept shops running, even now being responsible for distributing RATs. Even inside the THS the Premier has selected some staff for reward while rejecting others. It excludes HR, infrastructure, IT, payroll and finance staff even though some of them have been working in the same hospital units as the staff who will get the $2,000. The decisions about who gets recognised and rewarded is plainly unfair.
Smoke and Mirrors
The other sting in the tail of the Premier’s announcement is that in order to get the $2,000, health workers have to permanently forgo a COVID Escalation Allowance they are current owed. Some staff have an entitlement today under an existing Agreement to be paid as much as $1,800 and more in the future if the pandemic escalates again. The Premier made his new one-off $2,000 payment contingent on around 6,000 workers agreeing to permanently forgoing a claim on the money they are owed and to accept that no payments will be made in the future if we have another peak in infections. And to top it all off, the Premier’s offer is also contingent on unions ceasing all relevant industrial action – whatever that means.
We’ll work to make it fair.
The CPSU believes every worker in this state deserves to be recognised and rewarded for their contribution to getting us through the pandemic and the CPSU will argue that case. We won’t however block any anyone from getting an allowance the government is willing to pay. So, we will be working with the Department to address the concerns we have with the Premier’s proposal and if we are not successful in broadening access to the $2,000 payment, we will continue to fight for it.