Pay differentials a bad thing?

Deano 15 August 2008 19

The Community and Public Sector Union has released a study that reveals what everyone working in the public service already knew: individual agency level wage bargaining is a dumb idea.

Agency level bargaining was implemented on the flawed basis that ‘unpopular’ agencies could attract the necessary quality staff by offering more money than the more popular agencies. However it turns out that the unpopular agencies were the ones that didn’t have much money in the first place and couldn’t match the highly funded popular agencies. As a result massive salary disparities have emerged between public servants doing the same job in different agencies. For example librarians at the National library are paid less than those at Parliament House and anyone working at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is paid 10% less than the average. It also sucks if you work in a predominately female agency.

There are now 750 different pay rates applying across the service. One of the side effects is that reorganisations within the public service are increasingly difficult as they can end up with people doing the same work in the same agency for significantly different money.

Surprisingly, it turns out that the best place to work is the Productivity Commission where an APS4 or 5 is paid $8000 above the average for those grades.

The union is calling for a standard salary scale across the service. However salaries aren’t the only disparity. Many agency agreements have included all sorts of arrangements for leave and working conditions. One small agency I know of even traded flextime for free biscuits in the tea rooms. If you thought agency agreement negotiations were bad imagine the negotiations that will be needed to bring everyone back into line again!

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19 Responses to Pay differentials a bad thing?
ant ant 9:31 am 17 Aug 08

2604 said :

Even with some of the highest pay rates in the APS, ANAO turns over staff at a rate of almost 40% per annum. For APS level staff it’s more like 60%. Go figure…

Finance had a similar problem in certain Groups, in fact they got hammered in senate estimates a few times for this. Paying lots of money attracts people *in*, but it won’t keep them if the job and work environment are unpleasant.

2604 2604 1:43 pm 16 Aug 08

Mary Whitehouse said :

Did anyone notice that going by the graphic on the front of the Canberra Times today the most extravagant payers seemed to be… the Australian National Audit Office.

This is because it has one of the worst working environments in the APS! The SES have all been there a thousand years and can’t be sacked no matter how they treat their staff, the audit managers mostly don’t know what they’re doing, and APS-level staff do the bulk of the audit work and still struggle to get above APS5 level. I’d rather slit my own throat than go back to working there!

Even with some of the highest pay rates in the APS, ANAO turns over staff at a rate of almost 40% per annum. For APS level staff it’s more like 60%. Go figure…

I-filed I-filed 10:11 pm 15 Aug 08

Pay difference is entirely understandable. I’ve worked in agencies where an EL1 wouldn’t cut it as a 5 in one of the more high-level, high-performing agencies. It simply wouldn’t work if those in a slacker agency were paid the same as in a hardworking or highly technical one. It all falls into place – the low-paying agencies are either full of dumbasses, or the agencies themselves, like the ABC or the National Library, have a perceived cachet about them that makes it all worthwhile. It’s no coincidence that AusAid gets to hire EL level talent into more junior positions. It offers (perceived) good.

ant ant 9:43 pm 15 Aug 08

Pay and conditions are quite different in various agencies. Finance have quite high payrates, especially at certain levels. They too have to attract accountants and economists. But they traded away their overtime, which is kind-of funny as for the budget lead-up, they’re working all-nights and all-weekends. For nix! They do get free milk in their fridges, except they don’t have proper tearooms. And the balance of milk was never right, one week there’d be lots of women around drinking the fake milk, and the next week if they were off, you’d have 4 cartons of that and no proper milk, and have to go off and do deals with other areas who had the milk you were after. Or just steal it…

Mary Whitehouse Mary Whitehouse 8:47 pm 15 Aug 08

Did anyone notice that going by the graphic on the front of the Canberra Times today the most extravagant payers seemed to be… the Australian National Audit Office.

I started the day with a smile after that!

Clown Killer Clown Killer 4:08 pm 15 Aug 08

I don’t have a problem with different pay rates for different agencies – then again I’m not working for the Government.

Seriously though, do people really believe that an EL2 or SES1 working in say the Environment Department or DMO are operating at the same level as an EL2 or SES1 in say Treasury, or PM&C? Of course they’re not and they shouldn’t be paid the same either.

On the other hand lower level clerks (are they still called clerks?) shovelling paper work from here to there may well be getting a raw deal.

Ultimately the pay rates are set in agreements, and they’re just that – what the workforce and the management agreed to – if people dont like it you know where the door is.

VYBerlinaV8_the_one_they_all_copy VYBerlinaV8_the_one_they_all_copy 3:25 pm 15 Aug 08

Personally i’d rather let people negotiate their own remuneration without the ‘help’ of unions. Let the market set the rate at which people are paid – it’s already waaaaaay too easy for the private sector to poach whomever they’d like simply by adding some $$ to the offer they make. Of course, what you then need to do is standardise conditions, so it’s manageable form an HR perspective…

ashroc ashroc 3:18 pm 15 Aug 08

Public servants ultimately work for the same employer (the govt.). A standard salary scale with standard working conditions across the public service is only fair.

With a central area taking responsibility for negotiating pay and conditions for all public servants productivity would increase. Currently, an inordinate amount of staff and management time is taken up by each agency in negotiating pay and conditions every 2-3 years.

emd emd 10:15 am 15 Aug 08

Having one set of pay rates across the PS would make it easier for staff to switch from one agency to another. It would also be easier for a program to move from one department to another.

Departments and agencies have a lot more differences than just rates of pay though. Working conditions like maternity and paternity leave, sick leave, working hours, access to flexibility such as part time work or flex leave etc are all variable depending on where you work. I wouldn’t suggest that all PS jobs should have exactly the same pay and conditions, but the vast differences do affect where people want to work.

I know that working mothers do talk about their working conditions. And they will switch to an agency that is seen to be more family-friendly. Not because they’re slack, but because they want to work productively for a flexible employer who trusts and respects the staff.

sepi sepi 9:53 am 15 Aug 08

Small agencies get done over. I went from a small agency to a big dept, and got a 10K payrise just for swapping jobs. I was a lot less busy and stressed in the second job too. Boring though.

Another small agency I worked for (under 50 people) ended up with a bizarre certified agreement where they traded away all sorts of things to get heaps of bereavement leave, as several staff were recently bereaved.

I actually favour one pay system across the PS. It is now a nightmare for HR when people move across, as nothing matches up anymore. Those coming from Defence may have 6 months worth of annual leave as there is no cap on it, and go to a dept where you are deemed to be on leave if you have more than 8 weeks.

Mr_Shab Mr_Shab 9:40 am 15 Aug 08

Ergh! No! Don’t go back to a single centrally negotiated PS! Having the great heavy foot of a single agreement resting on all agencies removes a lot of the capacity of the more dynamic agencies with better motivated staff to attract better staff.

PC pays more because it has to play in a market of highly payed people (economists, actuaries, etc). AIATSIS pays less because it’s the domain of people with less desirable qualifications (historians, anthropolgists, social scientists etc). It’s exactly the same in the private sector, so I fail to see why the PS should be too much different.

That said – if we all got dragged to the median, I’d probably get a payrise.

Tempestas Tempestas 9:36 am 15 Aug 08

It seems that agencies with Indigenous or female (in that order) in their names are the least well off. There is something a bit odd about how that works out.

The issue that underlies it is that places that have bigger budgets to manipulate can get better pay, smaller agencies with a narrow focus and budget would be better off being absorbed into a larger agency in pay outcomes. Of course that would probably mean they are less good at doing what they do.

If any Government wants quality public services, strangely it may need to pay quality money.

I note the usual Public service bashing has already started in comments on ABC online and News Corp online papers.

This might be the only online place where we keep it a bit real.

Actually who am I kidding!

glasscentralcanberra glasscentralcanberra 8:43 am 15 Aug 08

This country’s gone down the long drop when people don’t think that parity’s important. Take your hand off it and get egalitarian. If the snots at Parliament house find it too busy on sitting days, tell ’em to get out of the bloody kitchen.
And send the agencies to the Gulag – what a rort!

Pandy Pandy 8:37 am 15 Aug 08

CPSU could show some leadership and state they will not support getting even more rises for the Productivity Commission until the rest of the pubes catch-up.

Thumper Thumper 8:21 am 15 Aug 08

And before Tom Tom comes charging out to defend his beloved ALP, I’ll state that Turnbull was exactly the same in the previosu government.

In fact I’d go as far as calling Turnbull a cnut and I seriously hope he never gets the reins to the country.

Thumper Thumper 8:19 am 15 Aug 08

Gillard appears almost to display contempt towards public servants and Ms Thumper tells me that Mr Garrett (and/or his advisors) are not much different.

Are they still settling into the job? Or do they have no idea?

Kramer Kramer 8:16 am 15 Aug 08

This would be a nightmare to bring them all back together. Agencies already have enough trouble settling on their own agreement & conditions. You have people working different hours, and conditions, with different perks & bonuses. Which agency is going to get the upper hand in determining this mega agreement??

Pay increases is the PS have to be justified against productivity increases, so it stands that agencies on higher pay scales have shown themselves to be more productive and/or have taken a cut to their conditions. Sure there are a few that have done themselves a disservice at the negotiating table over previous agreements, but I guess if they want to attract (good) staff, their management will have to bite the bullet, and ante up a solid pay increase.

Thumper Thumper 8:07 am 15 Aug 08

I’ve always been a great believer in a wage parity across the service, not individual CAs where APS4s can be earning as much as an EL1 in another Department.

Pandy Pandy 7:59 am 15 Aug 08

I am sure that the libarians at Parliament House work harder and longer than those at Aboriginal Institute, especially on sitting days.

I don’t think Rudd has much love for pubes what woth his 24/7 work ethic. So don’t expect any fix on this disparity.

My advice, get a transfer.

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