APS pay moribund and eclipsed by states

Shipwreck Polyexni


The Abbott government’s bitter and protracted enterprise bargaining dispute with Commonwealth public servants and the Community and Public Sector Union has seen pay increases in the federal sector flatline, leaving federal bureaucrats eating the dust of their state counterparts.

The APS Remuneration Report 2014 released by the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) this week reveals that public servants below the elite Senior Executive Service band received a negligible annual pay increase of just 0.1 per cent as at 31st December 2014, a figure that pales in comparison to the official measure of inflation, the Consumer Price Index, of 2.7 per cent for the year ended December 2014.

The news was half as bad for APS bosses. They sill only netted only a 0.2 per cent increase for the same period after being left in the same moribund bargaining state as their reports.

The latest dire APSC remuneration statistics are certain to add fuel to already inflamed tensions over bargaining between unions, public servants and the government as at least three state emboldened governments continue to poach public sector talent from Canberra following recent elections.

In New South Wales, where the successive O’Farrell and Baird governments have adopted an innovative and pragmatic approach to increasing productivity and savings, bureaucrats managed a modest 2.5 per cent increase that will come into effect from 1st July 2015.

Meanwhile, both Victoria and Queensland — two states that dispatched Coalition governments after just a single term — have moved quickly to try and make their peace with the public sector workforce and their unions after a period of large scale retrenchments.

The bleak federal public service wage growth figures made for an awkward sell for acting Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Christopher Pyne, who took an academic approach to talking-up a set of figures only the Department of Finance could take comfort in.

Mr Pyne said that given the Consumer Price Index in “the December 14 and March 15 quarters, was 0.8 per cent annualised and the Employee Living Cost index 0.2 per cent annualised”, a rejected 1.5 + 1.5 + 0.55 increase offer at the Department of Human Services would have been “well in excess of current inflation”.

A key reason for the rejection of that deal was a raft of so-called productivity offsets contained in DHS offers to staff — which are effectively labour cost savings — that acted to increase working hours and water down established entitlements and conditions.

Mr Pyne’s comments also came after the APSC was forced into defending its own 1.5 per cent offer to its own employees, which came without the sting of diluted entitlements and conditions, in stark contrast to other offers on the table.

Mr Pyne said that 91 APS agencies covering over 99 per cent of APS employees were now bargaining, but blamed “union campaigns” for “delaying public servants receiving further wage increases.”

“Unlike the [CPSU], Australian Public Service employees understand that the Government needs to live within its means. To agree to the CPSU’s claims would result in 10,000 job losses across the sector.”

Whether the government’s interpretation of that understanding — let alone if another 10,000 job losses are plausible — remains to be seen as strikes unfold over coming weeks.

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