Public sector wage freeze upheld with 0.3 per cent increase

The NSW Industrial Relations Commission has awarded the state’s 400,000 public sector employees a “notional” 0.3 per cent cent pay rise after the state government sought to impose a wage freeze.

The state government announced in May it wanted to stop the annual 2.5 per cent wage increase for public servants.

The government had said it could achieve savings of $3 billion by ‘pausing’ public sector wages and had earmarked that money for an infrastructure and and job acceleration fund.

Our decision should in no way be seen as a reflection on the value of the contribution made by employees in the government sector.

Full Bench of the IRC

It also said the cut would save public sector jobs from being cut.

But unions said a full pay rise would have stimulated spending and argued the government was in a strong enough economic position to afford the pay rise as well as the infrastructure fund.

The matter ended up with the industrial umpire after the government failed to get the freeze past the Upper House.

The Full Bench of the IRC admitted on Thursday the the 03 per cent increase “may be regarded at notional at best”, but said it had awarded it to avoid a decrease in their real wages.

“This is not a determination which the Full Bench has made easily and without some hesitation,” the commissioners said.

“We recognise that it will do little to alleviate the concerns of those … who see the Employers’ position in these proceedings as failing to recognise, let alone reward, their efforts.”

They said the decision should not be seen as a reflection on the value of the contribution made by government sector employees.

“At the same time, it must be observed that the Government sector in New South Wales has been shielded from some of the significant employment-related consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic that have been experienced in other parts of the workforce.”

Govt defends decision

NSW treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the decision would help the government create jobs.

“Our economy needs stimulus, we need to make every dollar count and the best modelling and advice is that we will get more bang for buck through direct investment, not higher pay packets for public servants,” he said.

Unions NSW has slammed the decision.

“This is a perverse decision which will deprive the state’s outer suburbs and regions of the economic lifeblood they so desperately need,” Secretary Mark Morey said.

He said the Unions NSW would review the decision to see if there were grounds for appeal.

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