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Treasurer rules out pay freeze for Victorian government workers

The pause follows a six-month freeze on Commonwealth public sector, ministerial and parliamentary wage increases, with the Queensland Labor government also pursuing a 12-month freeze.

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Mr Pallas told The Age on Thursday that there would be no deviation from the government’s bargaining policy for the public servants, who began their negotiations looking for annual pay rises worth 3.5 per cent, or anyone else.

But nor would a pay freeze be considered, a spokesman for the Treasurer said.

“We have no plans to put added burden on nurses, paramedics, police and other workers on the front line of the fight against coronavirus,” Mr Pallas’ spokesman said.

The public service union, the CPSU, said Mr Pallas’ stance was “common sense”.

Mr Pallas and his colleagues also face wage negotiations in the coming months with the state’s 75,000 public school teachers, but their union said on Thursday that it was too early to nominate a pay rise figure.

In their last round of bargaining three years ago, the teachers secured average annual pay rises of up to 4.4 per cent.

Recent deals between the Victorian government and police and paramedics have been in line with the 2 per cent policy, according to the government, but came with big improvements in conditions which allowed the police union to tell its members that it had won an agreement worth 3 per cent a year.

Victoria’s government employee costs were up above $26 billion for the 2019-2020 financial year, about 37 per cent of government revenue for the year, according to projections made before the virus slashed the government’s ability to raise taxes.

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The independent Parliamentary Budget office expected staff costs to peak in excess of that level next year, but to return to 36 per cent or less, close to the 10-year average, by 2023.

But state Liberal treasury spokeswoman Louise Staley said the Andrews government had lost control of public sector wages.

“Labor promised last year that wages would only increase by 2.5 per cent but in the last quarter alone employee expenses have blown out by 8.8 per cent,” Ms Staley said.

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