APS staff to get 1.9 per cent pay increase in line with private sector

Ian Bushnell 20 August 2021 70

APS Commissioner Peter Woolcott. The APS pay rise in the next year will be based on the Wage Price Index. Photo: File.

Most Commonwealth public servants will receive a maximum pay rise of 1.9 per cent over the coming year based on the latest Wage Price Index, but their union says the Federal Government’s new policy of tying public sector pay to the private sector will leave staff in the dark when negotiating and suppress wages.

The Australian Public Service Commission has issued a circular to Commonwealth entities advising them of the WPI figure and how it should be applied to pay agreements between 1 September 2021 and 31 August 2022.

This will be the first pay increase under the new policy and will be a guide to how it will work in the future.

The circular applies to agencies with pay deals approved under the 2020 Public Sector Workplace Relations Policy that scrapped the 2 per cent wages cap for Commonwealth public servants in exchange for linking new rises to the private sector figure.

Pay deals approved under earlier government policies will continue to operate under their existing arrangements.

The APSC says some deals may include a cap on pay increases at a level below the WPI figure, and that must apply even if the WPI figure is higher.

It says all SES and equivalent employees are covered by the new policy and the WPI figure.

Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ben Morton, when announcing the new wages policy last November, said the new policy ensured that Commonwealth public sector wage rises could no longer exceed wage rises in the private sector, but would allow them to follow private sector wage growth when it eventually exceeds 2 per cent.


READ ALSO: Government cracks down on APS performance bonuses


The latest Remuneration Report shows APS wage growth at a record low, with the median wage rising only 0.8 per cent in the 2020 financial year, partly attributable to the pandemic pay freeze.

The Commonwealth and Public Sector Union says staff will now go into new enterprise agreement negotiations not knowing what the next pay figure will be.

“Pay increases will be unknown at the time you vote on them. The new wage cap sees wage rises calculated at a later date. Employees will be required to vote on an agreement that leaves future pay rates unknown,” the CPSU says.

Under the new Bargaining Policy, it says that pay cannot be genuinely negotiated by unions, workers and agencies, but will be dictated by the government.

Melissa Donnelly

CPSU National Secretary Melissa Donnelly says the pay freeze and WPI cap has seen real wages go backwards. Photo: Supplied.

CPSU National Secretary Melissa Donnelly said the implications of this decision will be felt for years to come.

“CPSU members having been working and delivering for our community through three waves of COVID-19, bushfires, floods and droughts,” she said.

“The pay freeze and WPI cap have seen real wages go backwards.

“At a time when the government should be helping workers spend in their local communities, it is effectively cutting wages and the pay rises on offer in the public sector. “


READ ALSO: Study says APS staff unwilling to report corruption but academic believes contractors are a greater risk


Ms Donnelly said the Morrison Government’s approach to bargaining was fundamentally broken.

“The government is asking workers to sign up to unknown deals, with no scope for improved conditions. It is a farcical situation you would never see in the private sector,” she said.

Ms Donnelly said it was contributing to staff dissatisfaction and the hollowing out of service delivery.

She said that the public sector had also given up its role leading employment conditions and providing innovative arrangements.

“Rather than being a model employer and driving broader economic growth by improving public sector workers’ wages, this government has chosen to lock APS employees into a race to the bottom on wages with the private sector.”


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70 Responses to APS staff to get 1.9 per cent pay increase in line with private sector
James-T-Kirk James-T-Kirk 10:46 am 24 Aug 21

I am in the private sector, and the only time I have ever had pay rises was when I change employers.

That’s why when i change employers, i typically go for a 10%- 15% increase – That covers me for 3 -5 years till i find the next employer.

many of my friends are in the APS, and they tell me that unless their agency agreement has this in it, then it is not going to happen.

The APS is built on the broken basis that people will stay loyal to them, and that allows them to get stuffed around. I strongly encourage people to exercise their mobility – it betters you as a worker as you see a much wider view of the world.

Some of the most blinkered people I have worked with have been working in IT in a single department for 25 years…….

Treacle Treacle 10:38 pm 21 Aug 21

I feel an election year dog whistle coming on: scapegoating the APS is sport.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 6:50 pm 21 Aug 21

“At a time when the government should be helping workers spend in their local communities, it is effectively cutting wages and the pay rises on offer in the public sector.”

That is an argument for a universal basic income and/or other policies which put more money in the hands of people more broadly, particularly those on low and lower middle incomes.

When others have had their livelihoods crushed in the name of public safety, it’s breathtakingly self-serving to run the old “pump-priming” argument about public sector income increases.

Mark Chapman Mark Chapman 3:47 pm 21 Aug 21

The Cormannator said the quiet bit out loud, that increased "flexibility" in wages was a result of policy, and to the Coalition that means keeping them as low as possible.

Janet Heap Janet Heap 1:55 pm 21 Aug 21

This Govt want all APS and State PS on contracts. Thats what Liberalism is about.

The APS led the way on fair pay reasoning and outsourcing followed by the private sector.

The APS were the PAYE taxpayers who kept the country going. Now its the private sector and small business who are the tax collectors! There's an outcome that this Govt is aiming for.

A lot will be owed by the private sector and it will be poverty down the scale!

Eileen Webster Eileen Webster 12:45 pm 21 Aug 21

Early Childhood Educators who are deemed 'Essential Workers' take home pay is abysmal. Also Aged Care and Disability Care staff. Try paying these wonderful and essential staff before giving a pay rise to PS staff.

    chewy14 chewy14 3:33 pm 21 Aug 21

    Ah, that’s because the public service is almost exclusively made up of professional roles, which means the averages will always be higher.

    But when you compare the same type of roles in the public amd private sectors, the private sector roles pay more.

    Job security is better in the public sector, pay is better in the private one.

Mat Barber Mat Barber 10:07 am 21 Aug 21

Private sector hasn't had a pay rise for nearly two years

David Jackson David Jackson 9:36 am 21 Aug 21

yeah have to get the jab ok

Sam Nö Sam Nö 4:07 am 21 Aug 21

That will barely keep up with inflation .. people need to chill out.

Joanne Mitchell Joanne Mitchell 12:05 am 21 Aug 21

Except a lot of the private sector have lost their jobs or are working radically reduced hours - no pay increase for them

    Cath Roo Grassick Cath Roo Grassick 7:00 am 21 Aug 21

    Joanne Mitchell except this speculative pay rise is to simply bring them back to what the private sector earn given they are under the cost of living rate....and its not even being suggested to be paid now but in the future as part of wage policy. There are also a lot of public servants working their ring off providing support to those you mention who don't get paid any extra for the risk to their health being placed at risk to provide these services or hours they are working. If you are angry about not being able to work....public servants aren't the ones that have caused this. And ultimately they are not slaves....

    Joanne Mitchell Joanne Mitchell 9:14 am 21 Aug 21

    Cath Roo Grassick not sure what the above rhetoric is - just made a statement of fact . A lot of fellow Australians are suffering too - simple as that . Not advocating either way ( oh and yes - still working ) .

    Cath Roo Grassick Cath Roo Grassick 9:20 am 21 Aug 21

    Joanne Mitchell the "rhetoric" is stating the facts. The private sector has received pay rises. This just brings the public sector back on par. Yes a lot of Australians are suffering due to government decisions but this is not related to that.

    Joanne Mitchell Joanne Mitchell 9:21 am 21 Aug 21

    Cath Roo Grassick As I said - not advocating either way - just a statement of fact . Not sure why you must turn this into something it just isn’t .

    Cath Roo Grassick Cath Roo Grassick 9:24 am 21 Aug 21

    Joanne Mitchell not turning it into anything. I am advocating as I am tired of people who are working their backsides off getting little credit and getting dragged into a broader conversation that they have no influence over.

    Joanne Mitchell Joanne Mitchell 9:30 am 21 Aug 21

    Cath Roo Grassick Again not advocating either way . Also not what I said .

Elizabeth Spence Elizabeth Spence 12:03 am 21 Aug 21

Pay rises happen with agreement. This is a speculative increase.

Rhiannon Agutter Rhiannon Agutter 9:39 pm 20 Aug 21

I don’t know why anyone would join the public service as anything but a contractor anymore

    David Lukacs David Lukacs 10:11 pm 20 Aug 21

    Rhiannon Agutter security

    Rhiannon Agutter Rhiannon Agutter 10:12 pm 20 Aug 21

    David Lukacs not worth making $50k a year less than your contractor colleagues

    James Taylor James Taylor 5:41 am 21 Aug 21

    Rhiannon Agutter yep, it's definitely no where near as good as it used to be

David Chadwick David Chadwick 9:00 pm 20 Aug 21

It's one thing for a union secretary to say they're worried that members wages are being "hollowed out" "going backwards". But this can only will happen when you have a hard-line employer facing off against a weakened union. In this case a union weakened by decades of complacency and a reluctance to confront the employer. As Red Gum once warned us in song "If You Don't Fight You Loose" and it's been a long time indeed since the Commonwealth servants fought for anything let alone a decent payrise.

Anura Samara Anura Samara 8:35 pm 20 Aug 21

Everyone is obsessed with the pay rise but pay attention to the underlying issue. As employees, we are NOT negotiating with our employer (the agency or department). Even if we have a written agreement between the employer and us, we have already found that another party - not even named in the agreement - can come along and change the terms of that agreement. Where else does someone get the right to unilaterally intervene in a legal agreement that they weren’t a party to? It would be like signing a contract to build a house but Fred from across town can just change the price!

Cath Roo Grassick Cath Roo Grassick 8:13 pm 20 Aug 21

Absolutely deserved especially in this time where the public service is going above and beyond to support Australians - processing payments, managing call centres and the abuse that comes with it, enforcing public health orders, caring for those that are sick....all within a poorly resourced framework that the federal government has continually pulled apart to give pay offs to their private sector consultant friends. The current wage policy of the government is ridiculous. While the economy may look like it rode the covid wave wage growth has gone backwards and is below the cost of living. Tying public sector salaries to the private sector is not going to help stimulate the economy. The public sector has traditionally been the tool to drive economic growth. As it is with the freezes applied by this government public sector salaries are now at 2.5% below inflation. In the last year they have only grown 1.3% although report indicates .08%. Private sector has grown 1.9%. This government couldn't economically manage its way out of a paper bag....unless they could keep diverting money to their mates and donors.

    Jorge Gatica Jorge Gatica 8:29 pm 20 Aug 21

    Cath Roo Grassick the public servants are the only workers in the country who haven’t lost anything since the pandemic started unlike the rest of the workforce

    Cath Roo Grassick Cath Roo Grassick 8:49 pm 20 Aug 21

    Jorge Gatica yeah I think you need to do a bit of actual evidence based research and get off the facebook. Not all of the private sector is suffering through the pandemic. A lot of the private sector has actually made money through COVID by pivoting their businesses and seeing opportunities. A lot of private sector employees have also worked from home. The public sector has had its ring hanging out to provide support. Public servants who are working in very understaffed departments to ensure services to the public are exhausted. They have put their own health and that of their families at risk in front line roles. Lots of people have suffered including public servants.

    Bianca Lorenne Bianca Lorenne 8:50 pm 20 Aug 21

    Cath Roo Grassick It’s pointless here, hey. Especially since no one understands service / positions.

    Cath Roo Grassick Cath Roo Grassick 8:52 pm 20 Aug 21

    Bianca Lorenne agree. It's always easy to bash public servants especially with this government attitude. Thank God there are really good people there stepping up and carrying the load for people like some of these commentators.

    Bianca Lorenne Bianca Lorenne 8:55 pm 20 Aug 21

    Cath Roo Grassick We’re all just names here - no one really understands. Thank you x

    Brendan O'Brien Brendan O'Brien 8:58 pm 20 Aug 21

    Bianca Lorenne I think everyone just assumes all APS staff are just policy writers and not in service roles

    Sally Wegener Sally Wegener 9:45 pm 20 Aug 21

    Cath Roo Grassick thanks for pointing out actual facts. Lots of Australians are fortunate to have kept jobs, and sadly many have not. I am friends with people from every circumstance (kept their job vs unemployment). We all want to wave a magic wand and get Australia back to pre-COVID life.

    The Australian public service did have a pay freeze, if that makes some people in this thread feel better about themselves….. personally I have worked an extra 15-25 hours every week for the same salary since Covid started (just finished work one hour ago on a Friday night after 13 hours). I feel lucky to still be working and can continue to support my family, but disgusted that people think I am a terrible person and undeserving of a very modest pay rise that is actually aligned to the private sector indexing. Truly bizarre and completely no evidence to these statements. I’ll keep doing what I’m doing and know that most educated people realise I’m just a worker like everyone else.

Cary Elliot Johnson Cary Elliot Johnson 8:06 pm 20 Aug 21

Well given that the Federal Public Service has a high proportion of staff who have cut their teeth in the private sector, including tradespersons, admin, accounting etc whom have a vast knowledge of worldly processes and policy, this cap will affectively discourage private entity workers from applying for APS jobs and in turn reduce the trail of knowledge that follows them in.

    Bianca Lorenne Bianca Lorenne 8:48 pm 20 Aug 21

    Cary Elliot Johnson Too wordy - what’s your point?

    Cath Roo Grassick Cath Roo Grassick 8:50 pm 20 Aug 21

    Bianca Lorenne if you don't have attractive packages you won't attract a wide range of skills......

Nilanthi Wilson Nilanthi Wilson 8:05 pm 20 Aug 21

I wonder who is actually processing all these Covid 19 payments to business which are shutdown due to lockdown 🤔

    Jorge Gatica Jorge Gatica 8:15 pm 20 Aug 21

    Nilanthi Wilson probably public servants who are getting paid to do it from home

    Cath Roo Grassick Cath Roo Grassick 8:19 pm 20 Aug 21

    Jorge Gatica wherever the desk is the work still has to be done so I don't get what you are trying to say.....I have two public servants working in my home and they haven't stopped working all hours with Covid task forces and processing payments for medical professionals who are chasing funds for vaccinations and the like....don't just assume people aren't working.

    Jorge Gatica Jorge Gatica 8:21 pm 20 Aug 21

    Cath Roo Grassick they’re still able to work and earn unlike others who can’t

    Anura Samara Anura Samara 8:30 pm 20 Aug 21

    Jorge Gatica and if they didn’t work (whether in the office or home) then no one would be getting all these special COVID payments for businesses and individuals. That would be a great way to shut down the country.

    Jorge Gatica Jorge Gatica 8:34 pm 20 Aug 21

    Anura Samara what part of they’re still getting paid unlike the rest of the workforce you don’t understand??

    Anura Samara Anura Samara 8:36 pm 20 Aug 21

    Jorge Gatica well if they’re working aren’t they entitled to get paid? Isn’t that how the labour contract works ie. I do stuff and my employer pays me. Or do you think they should work for free because other people have lost their jobs. By the way, not all of the “rest of the workforce” are not getting paid - in fact not even the majority of employer Australians are going unpaid.

    Cath Roo Grassick Cath Roo Grassick 8:42 pm 20 Aug 21

    Jorge Gatica this doesn't even make sense....so you don't want them to work...to vaccinate people..to care for the sick...to enforce health orders...to process payments....I don't even understand what you think they should be doing?

    Jorge Gatica Jorge Gatica 8:50 pm 20 Aug 21

    Cath Roo Grassick it has to do with the pay rise, who else is getting a pay rise in the workforce for doing their job apart from the public service, most can’t work

    Mamy Watts Mamy Watts 8:53 pm 20 Aug 21

    Most public servants- especially health are earning every cent at the moment. I have many friends who have been redeployed and the hours they are working is not healthy for anyone. They all deserve it.

    Do people realise most big bosses could earn more in private enterprise? Yes they have the security in public service but the money is definitely not always the best.

    Nilanthi Wilson Nilanthi Wilson 8:53 pm 20 Aug 21

    Jorge Gatica so just because most cant work thr public servants shouldn't work. Besides they are only getting the wpi increase same as the private sector.

    Cath Roo Grassick Cath Roo Grassick 8:55 pm 20 Aug 21

    Jorge Gatica you don't understand. Wages growth has gone backwards with this government. This article is about upcoming policy to govern enterprise agreements over the next few years. People that work in the public sector are not your slaves. As it is the private sector have been getting more salary rises than the public sector.

    Glenda Lloyd Glenda Lloyd 9:34 pm 20 Aug 21

    Public servants have been taken from their usual jobs and are processing COVID claims as fast as possible to get support out to the Australian people. They are working long hours, mostly from home due to state lockdown requirements, to get this done.

    Yes public servants are fortunate to be able to continue their work from home. It's also fortunate for the country that this work CAN continue - I'm not sure what we would have done if this had happened before the internet.

    Jesse Mahoney Jesse Mahoney 11:18 pm 20 Aug 21

    Jorge Gatica so because they're getting paid means they deserve to be attacked?

    Jody Crawford Jody Crawford 1:00 am 21 Aug 21

    Jorge Gatica mate, I have a friend who was stood down last week like many people have been, and has now started working on the front line processing people as they go to get tested. If you want to get paid, maybe you could go and front up and see where you can help, too.

    Jacob Argent Jacob Argent 1:05 am 21 Aug 21

    Jorge Gatica anyone who is working for someone with a decent EBA is getting a pay rise every year

Salima Haidary Salima Haidary 7:51 pm 20 Aug 21

It probably doesn’t include health workers. Who are the people who actually deserve the pay rise.

    Cath Roo Grassick Cath Roo Grassick 8:18 pm 20 Aug 21

    Salima Haidary it does include health workers and police and Services Australia employees working under incredible strain to ensure payments get out and manage the call centre where they are copping abuse every day...and Veterans support staff and so on.....

Angela M J Brown Angela M J Brown 7:45 pm 20 Aug 21

Well you know the APS could work to rule and all you people wanting your Centrelink applications processed during lockdown because you don't have an income could just be waiting for months for it to happen. All people can do is bash APS but they have worked their guts out through the bushfires, drought and now all these lockdowns. They are someone's partner, your siblings or friends. Thanks Australia for kicking them while they do their best and get treated like rubbish by their employer.

    Katie Williams Katie Williams 8:05 am 21 Aug 21

    Angela M J Brown unfortunately working to rule is unlawful thanks to our atrocious IR laws. But the main issue with this this policy is suppressing public service wages means bad news for all wages. Where the public service goes on IR so goes the private sector.

    Angela M J Brown Angela M J Brown 8:27 am 21 Aug 21

    Katie Williams I am guessing you could do it without announcing you are doing it. 🙂 But I totally agree. The APS bashers don't realise that the stagnant to zero wage growth in this country has been very carefully structured by the LNP so their mates get richer while the workers go to hell in a handcart. What working class person now is keeping up with cost of living these days? The non public servants have no idea the APS are the guinea pigs for their future wages and the more they bang on about hating APS workers the more they dig their own grave for zero wage reform.

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