ACT News

Cabinet papers: 'Firm attitude' needed against APS wage claims

The Hawke government told public service employers to maintain a unified stance against wage claims that were trying to break out of the restraint imposed by the Accord.

Prime Minister Bob Hawke (left) and Treasurer Paul Keating.
Prime Minister Bob Hawke (left) and Treasurer Paul Keating. Photo: David Bartho

Ministers were told in September 1990 a "firm attitude" was needed because the new round of claims from the ACTU went beyond the Accord VI agreement.

The claims lodged for workers in the Australian Public Service and related statutory authorities, as well as Telecom and Qantas, "appear to differ from the Accord in a number of important aspects", Cabinet was told.

Cabinet papers released by the National Archives of Australia reveal the Industrial Relations Department was concerned the wage claims were not dependent on a union commitment to award restructuring and did not provide for a phased introduction of a proposed rise in the superannuation contribution.

"In responding to union claims it is important that the approach taken by employers within Australian Government Employment (AGE) supports the elements of the Accord, is consistent between the various employers, does not generate pressures leading to inappropriate outcomes elsewhere and acknowledges the role of the IRC [Industrial Relations Commission]," the department's submission said.

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"Government agencies have  been advised of the requirements to consult with the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) before commencing negotiations on the claims and not to enter into commitments at this stage.

"This issue is complex and will require careful management to ensure that expectations of significant additional pay increases applying across the board are not created.

"If industrial action is taken, a variety of responses are available, including notification to the Commission of a breach of no extra claims commitments.

"There is a requirement for close consultation between public sector employers to ensure a co-ordinated response to claims."

The Finance Department said the claims exceeded the Accord in a number of significant areas and "need to be strongly resisted".

"The department believes that public sector employees already have adequate superannuation benefits," it said.

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet also questioned the need for an additional 3 per cent superannuation contribution.

A letter dated September 5, 1990, from ACTU secretary Bill Mansfield to Graham Glenn, Industrial Relations Department secretary, lodged a claim for all personnel employed under the Australian Public Service Act and in related authorities.

It consisted of a wage increase equal to the CPI rise for the September 1990 quarter, a further increase of $12 a week payable six months later, an additional 3 per cent employer contribution to superannuation by May 1991 and a further increase based on market comparability and/or productivity.

Cabinet agreed government agencies could support the two wage rises but only a phased introduction of an additional 3 per cent superannuation contribution.