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Tasmanian Government avoids paying back pay for firefighters

March 22, 2021

The Australian Workers’ Union has condemned as “mean spirited” the Tasmanian Government’s continued efforts to avoid back pay for 13 frontline firefighters, despite court rulings ordering the government to pay.

The firefighters were owed about $20,000 from work during the 2018-19 bushfires, but the Gutwein Government has so far wasted much more in legal costs in failed legal actions in the Tasmanian Industrial Commission and subsequent Supreme Court appeals.

Kevin Midson, from the AWU Tasmanian Branch, said the members had worked through a horrific summer, and were stunned by the government’s stance.

“This is mean spirited and a waste of taxpayers’ money,” Mr Midson said.

“The firefighters are bewildered why the government would begrudge them the pay raise they’re due, particularly since they put their lives on the line to protect the community.

“The government has spent many times more on legal costs than was owed to the firefighters in backpay, and there’s more judges and lawyers involved in the court cases than firefighters affected.”

The AWU signed an agreement for a backdated pay rise with the Tasmanian Government in August 2019.

But the union was forced to take the government to the Tasmanian Industrial Commission where the case was heard by the President, who found in the favour of the AWU firefighters and ordered that they be given the back pay owed.

The government unsuccessfully appealed to the Tasmanian Supreme Court, claiming the decision was outside the jurisdiction of the Industrial Commission. It is now appealing to the full bench of the Supreme Court.

The government partially backed down last week, saying 12 of the 13 had now been paid, but said it would continue the costly legal action.

“We’re glad 12 of the 13 firefighters have now received their back pay, but it’s ludicrous they haven’t come good on what they owe – pay the guy,” Midson says.

“How ludicrous does the government want to get. They have been told twice by independent umpires just to pay people what they are owed.”

The fight is not over yet.

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