Unvaccinated Queensland teachers face ‘consequences’ for their choice, federal minister says
24 Aug 2022
About 900 education staff across the state could see their weekly pay docked by between $25 and $90
Queensland’s Department of Education is finalising disciplinary action against about 900 workers who refused to meet a vaccination requirement. Photograph: chameleonseye/Getty Images/iStockphoto
The federal aged care minister, Anika Wells, says Queensland teachers facing a pay cut for refusing to get vaccinated against Covid-19 are dealing with “the consequences of that choice”.
The state’s Department of Education is finalising disciplinary action against about 900 public schoolteachers, aides, administration staff and cleaners who did not comply with a directive to get vaccinated. There are about 54,000 teachers employed across the state.
“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 on Wednesday.
The penalties are specific to individual circumstances, but equates to a cut of between $25 and $90 a week over 18 weeks, proportionate to normal pay.
“This is not an uncommon penalty to result from a disciplinary process,” the department said.
Wells said staff involved knew the consequences of their decision and teachers deserve a safe workplace.
“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 on Wednesday.
“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% are actually vaccinated.”
Queensland’s education minister, Grace Grace, said disciplinary action was always on the cards for the unvaccinated workers.
“Other states sacked their teachers, they took that drastic action,” Grace said.
“That was always part of a disciplinary process. We decided not to go with that.”
But the chancellor of the Australian National University and the former foreign minister, Julie Bishop, said the disciplinary action was “a very harsh outcome”.
“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 also said the move to punish the 900 teachers and staff comes amid a national shortage of teachers.
She said expecting people to still go to work but for lower pay than their colleagues was hard to justify.
“I don’t think it passes any logical test and it is a penalty that they don’t deserve,” Bishop said.
“We’ve learned how to deal with the Covid pandemic and docking teachers’ pay, in particular, is a step too far.”