Unions say the state government is now using months of back pay as leverage in its ongoing enterprise negotiations with public sector workers.
This comes after the head of the state service wrote to staff suggesting the inclusion of back pay in any new agreements may not be possible if they were not finalised this financial year.
Department of Premier and Cabinet secretary Jenny Gale wrote to all staff on Friday to "update you on the wages agreement process".
In the letter, seen by The Examiner, Ms Gale criticised unions for "hampering" a resolution by reiterating at a May 17 meeting they would only present a counter offer to the premier - not agency negotiation teams.
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These teams were keen to finalise negotiations "prior to 30 June to enable back pay to be included in the Agreements", she wrote.
Australian Nursing and Midwifery Foundation executive director Andrew Brakey said last Friday's meeting with negotiators was the first time he had heard anything to suggest back pay could be an issue.
Mr Brakey was concerned by the possibility workers could miss out. The union notified members soon after.
"We hadn't had anything up until last week to suggest that back pay would be off the table for nurses and midwives," he said.
Community and Public Sector Union secretary Tom Lynch said he had seen the "tactic" before but there was nothing stopping payments spanning a financial year.
"Our position is that an agreement would be backdated to December 2018," he said. "We've faced these threats from employers in the past and have always ignored them."
"They make out the 30th of June is a key date ... there's nothing significant about it."
Mr Lynch added discussions with the premier were needed as the union could not negotiate with teams unable to offer wages higher than members had already rejected.
"Effectively [Will Hodgman] has created a stand off by being unwilling to meet with us to resolve these matters," he said. "If the Hodgman government thinks our campaign is flagging, they are completely wrong."
Further joint-member meetings are set to take place from June 3.
Thursday's state budget contained no change to the government's 2 per cent wage cap policy - a sticking point in negotiations since mid 2018 - with Treasurer Peter Gutwein maintaining any increase would have to be funded through further savings.
However, a breakthrough came from teaching staff this month in the form of a three-year stepped wage increase of an initial 2 per cent, with 2.5 per cent in the years to follow.
The deal was endorsed by the union earlier this month. Ms Gale's letter also made reference to the milestone.
Plans to offset that increase in part with a 30 per cent reduction in loading for relief teachers has drawn criticism from members. Though an internal poll conducted this week revealed a majority backed the offer.
Responding to questions on Friday night, a spokesperson for the government said it believed public sector workers deserved a "fair and affordable" raise and was "willing to consider" back pay if agreements were ratified by June 30.
The spokesperson did not elaborate on what the consequence of negotiations extending into the new financial year might be.
"It has been the consistent position of the Government that public sector wage increases over 2 per cent per annum must be offset by savings and efficiencies," the spokesperson said. "Disappointingly union leaders have chosen stall tactics rather than good faith negotiations."
"The best thing they could do for their members is to bring a sensible range of savings options to the negotiating table or agree to those that have been suggested."
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