1 September 2023

It's a good pay deal, take it, minister urges public servants

| Chris Johnson
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Public Service Minister Katy Gallagher

Public Service Minister Katy Gallagher has urged unions to accept the APS pay deal on offer. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The Federal Government is feeling confident its latest pay offer to the public service will be accepted, despite the main union representing the workforce keeping a low profile since the offer was tabled.

The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) slightly increased its offer on Tuesday (29 August) from a 10.5 per cent increase over three years to an 11.2 per cent hike over the same period.

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), which has a claim on the table for a 20 per cent wages increase over three years, is publicly making no specific comment on the government’s revised offer until its membership has voted on it.

Instead, the union’s leadership will spend the next two weeks explaining to its members the details of the whole wages and conditions package being offered.

“After five months of intense negotiations, strong member campaigning, and clear direction from members on your priority issues, your CPSU bargaining team has worked hard at the bargaining table to negotiate on the issues that matter most to members,” a statement to members reads.

“We are now at the point that there is a package of pay and conditions for members to consider.

“The bargaining team have scheduled member-only webinars to take you through the detail of the package.

“Throughout this process, it has been members who determine our position on bargaining.

“So, these member-only webinars will be followed by a poll of all CPSU members in the APS to determine our position on the package.”

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But wins in other areas, such as progress on pay parity between agencies, gender equity and parental leave, appear to have been achieved at the expense of a higher level of salary increases.

Ahead of the package being tabled, the CPSU stressed negotiations were about more than just pay rises, and its members wanted an outcome that would improve working conditions and make a dent in unsafe workloads caused by a high level of ongoing vacancies across the sector.

Region understands employee representatives in the negotiation process made a number of concessions in order to see serious action over pay disparity between agencies.

Making inroads on pay parity is a huge issue for the Australian Public Service, with mounting frustration over the considerable differences between agencies in wages for staff employed at the same level and classification.

Public servants working in central agencies are paid significantly more than those employed at the same level in some lower-profiled agencies, cultural institutions and agencies providing services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

On offer now is a revised base salary structure that will go a long way to addressing pay fragmentation across the APS, lifting salary scales in 83 different agencies and benefitting almost 8000 employees by March 2026.

Finance and Public Service Minister Katy Gallagher has described the new offer as “reasonable and fair” and urged union members to accept it, suggesting the government was doing the right thing by its workforce.

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“This improved offer remains the largest pay increase APS employees will have received in over a decade,” the minister said on Wednesday.

“This is what you get from a government that is willing to come to the table and bargain in good faith.

“We look forward to this being considered by the unions and reaching a final agreement.”

If accepted, APS-wide wage increases will begin with a 4 per cent rise next March, followed by 3.8 per cent in 2025 and another 3.4 per cent in 2026.

Other conditions on offer in the package include primary caregivers receiving 18 weeks’ parental leave, an increase for 94 agencies, and secondary caregivers receiving eight weeks’ parental leave rising to 18 weeks over the life of the enterprise agreement (an increase for all APS agencies).

Qualifying periods for paid parental leave will be removed.

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The assertion that this is a good deal is based on forecast WPI and CPI figures over the life of the agreement. Looking back at the forecasts that the RBA made in February and May 2021 for December 2022 and June 2023 (a comparable amount of time to the length of this agreement), the closest forecast was off by over 60%. The argument falls over when the forecasts can’t be trusted.

Year 1 needs to be at CPI or is effectively a pay cut, most other agreements with the fair work commissioner are at least 5%, 3%, 3%.
Perhaps we need to appoint that Sharaz chap as delegate to negotiate on our behalf, this would all be resolved in 24 hours.

The government causes the worst economy in 15 years, and they all get pay rises. There should be mass purging of the public service. Several departments and regulatory bodies are clearly unfit for purpose (e.g. ASIC or the TGA). Abolish everything and rebuild from the ground up.

Still peanuts compared with some. American Airline is offering pilots compensation (wages + retirement contribution) of not less than 46% over 4 years and 21% immediately deal is ratified. Not an outlier either as Delta and United have already made similar deals.

Not sure what your point is? There is a global shortage of pilots and the travel market, particular in the US, is going gangbusters. To attract qualified pilots, they are offering large pay increases. These are employment market forces for a niche skillset.

Not as good a pay deal as the recent pollie payrise, where bargaining never occurs, it just happens with such frequency, you can set your clock to it

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