Gunner’s threats against workers will result in further declining economy

The Electrical Trades Union condemns the comments made by Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner this week following the overwhelming vote from public sector workers to reject the four-year wage freeze.

86 per cent of Power and Water Corporation’s workforce voted ‘no’ to the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) that proposed a four-year wage freeze for all Territory public service workers, with a $1000 yearly taxable bonus. Following this, the Chief Minister announced that job cuts would result.

“The Chief Minister has twisted the narrative to fit his agenda and try to avoid taking any responsibility,” says ETU Organiser David “Strawbs” Hayes. “He’s the Treasurer and the leader of the Territory. It’s his responsibility to examine the wages policy and come up with a solution that benefits the Territorian workers. “Unions are made up of members,” says Mr Hayes. “An overwhelming number of Territorian workers voted ‘no’ to the pay freeze offer. Those same workers will be going to the polls in the next Territory election, and they won’t forget.

“If the Gunner government follows through with job cuts, the public sector will be understaffed. Then, who will work on the front line? Who will keep the lights on? There will be huge consequences if we see the mass job cuts Gunner threatens. There are plenty of jobs in other states. Territorians will move away, and our economy will go even farther downhill.

“We have under-resourced front-line services throughout all sections of PowerWater and the effect of this will be felt by the public when it matters most. One of our main claims in bargaining is to get a focus on where resources are needed most and fill positions that ensure the networks can operate safely and reliably. I would argue that our power and water networks are in a fragile state,” says Mr Hayes.

With the cost of living in the Territory only increasing, it’s unreasonable to freeze wages with the economy in the state it is. Mass layoffs in the public sector would have significant impacts on the Territory, with public servants making up a significant 9% of the entire Territory population, a higher percentage than any other jurisdiction in Australia.

“The Chief Minister has put the responsibility of fixing the economy on public sector workers, the people who have worked on the front line throughout the pandemic, the workers who keep the lights on, our teachers. He’s told these workers that it’s their responsibility to take an effective pay cut, factoring in inflation and cost of living, to save the economy,” says ETU State Secretary Peter Ong.

“It’s not the workers’ responsibility. Michael Gunner is the Chief Minister and the Treasurer, and the task of rehabilitating the economy lies with him and his government. To suggest anything else is outrageous. Freezing wages in a time of economic stress means Territorians have less money to spend – it’s counterintuitive,” says Mr Ong.

“The government saying it can’t afford pay rises because of debt is equivalent to a family saying it can’t afford groceries because they have a mortgage. The government’s financial position shows us they should review their pay freeze policy,” says Mr Hayes. “Such a significant number of workers voting down the pay freeze offer shows the government that Territorian workers won’t be bullied by Michael Gunner.”


For more information, please call David “Strawbs” Hayes on 0419 721 042 or Kristin Perissinotto on 0448 633 858.