Protests Over Decision to Cut Pay of Unvaccinated Teachers

By Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng
Writer
Daniel Y. Teng is based in Sydney. He focuses on national affairs including federal politics, COVID-19 response, and Australia-China relations. Got a tip? Contact him at daniel.teng@epochtimes.com.au.
September 2, 2022 Updated: September 8, 2022

Hundreds of protestors took the streets on Aug. 31 against a decision by the Queensland state government to dock the pay of unvaccinated teachers.

A week earlier, Education Queensland finalised disciplinary action against 900 teachers in the state (out of 54,000 educators) who will see their pay cut by $25 to $90 per week over an 18-week period.

“School staff were given ample opportunity to follow the lawful direction or provide evidence as to why they should be exempt from the direction since the vaccination requirements were announced in November 2021,” the Department said in a statement on Aug. 24.

The punishment will be the second pay hit for the 900 educators who were initially stood down without pay for refusing the first COVID-19 jab by Dec. 17, 2021.

Epoch Times Photo
Members of the Teachers’ Professional Association of Queensland (TPAQ) attend a protest against the state Department of Education’s decision to cut the pay of unvaccinated teachers in Brisbane, Australia, on Aug. 31. (Courtesy of TPAQ)

Mixed Response to Decision

Queensland’s state education minister, Grace Grace, said the penalty was not uncommon and was better than other state governments who had resorted to dismissing teachers.

“That was always part of a disciplinary process. We decided not to go with that,” she told reporters.

Epoch Times Photo
Queensland Education Minister Grace Grace speaks to the media during a press conference at Everleigh State School in Brisbane, Australia, on Feb. 1, 2022. (AAP Image/Darren England)

While federal Labor Aged Care Minister Anika Wells also weighed in on the debate saying unvaccinated teachers were dealing with the “consequences of that choice.”

“Everyone has the right to make a choice about whether or not to get vaxxed, but no one has the right to be free from the consequences of that choice, and these have been set out a long time coming, and they’ve had their pay docked for the six months running up to this,” she told Nine’s Today program.

“So this isn’t a surprise, and something that the Queensland government is going to have to work through with the very small pocket of teachers, given 99 percent are actually vaccinated.”

The move was criticised by former Liberal Party Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who said it was needless given the current teacher shortage in Australia.

“Surely we’ve moved on from this now,” she told Today. “I would like to see the medical advice that would support such a penalty being imposed on people who, after all, have made a choice. It is pretty harsh.”

Bishop said it was hard to expect to teachers to continue working when they received lower pay rates.

“I don’t think it passes any logical test, and it is a penalty that they don’t deserve,” she said.

Taking to the Streets

Members of alternative education union, the Teachers’ Professional Association of Queensland (TPAQ), took part in a protest organised by the People’s Revolution—established in 2020 in response to harsh lockdown measures implemented during the pandemic.

Hundreds of marchers proceeded to the rally outside the state’s Parliament House.

TPAQ falls under the umbrella Red Union movement formed in response to widespread acceptance of vaccine mandates by Australia’s traditional unions.

Epoch Times Photo
Members of the Teachers’ Professional Association of Queensland (TPAQ) took part in a protest against the state Department of Education’s decision to cut the pay of unvaccinated teachers in Brisbane, Australia, on Aug. 31. (Courtesy of TPAQ)

Red Union has stated it is not affiliated with any political entity (major union groups in Australia are generally linked to the current government, the Australian Labor Party) and has grown to around 17,000 members covering areas such as teaching, nursing, driving, and doctors.

Tracy Tully, secretary of TPAQ, said the move by the Queensland education minister to dock the pay of teachers was “irresponsible.”

“The education department’s policies clearly demonstrate that their attitude towards employees is not one of concern or safety,” she said, adding that the government had engaged in unnecessary “fear-mongering” around vaccine mandates and COVID-19.

Red Union’s Other Battle

Meanwhile, Red Union is also fighting to avoid being de-legitimised under the state government’s proposed changes to industrial relations laws.

Grace, also the industrial relations minister, said the state’s Industrial Relations Act 2016 was being amended to provide a clear distinction between unions and “other bodies” that seek to represent employers and employees.

“The Bill acknowledges the primacy of the role registered employer and employee organisations play,” she said in a statement on June 23.

Grace also said the new law would provide “protections” against union movements making “false and misleading claims” about being able to represent the interests of workers.

Red Union Managing Director Jack McGuire said the Bill would narrow the requirements around registration and effectively side-line his organisation.

Further, he claimed there was an interest in legacy union groups to push and lobby the government to de-legitimise a competitor. Union membership in Australia has in fact, declined markedly from 1986 (47.3 percent of full-time workers) to 2020 (15.3 percent of full-timers).

“This is the most anti-worker Bill ever introduced into the Queensland Parliament, and any MP that got elected off the back of workers should be ashamed that a supposed ‘Labor’ government would even draft this,” McGuire told The Epoch Times.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that TPAQ organised the rally when it was the “People’s Revolution.” The Epoch Times regrets the error.

Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng is based in Sydney. He focuses on national affairs including federal politics, COVID-19 response, and Australia-China relations. Got a tip? Contact him at daniel.teng@epochtimes.com.au.