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Defence public servants warned to expect long wait for a pay offer

The Defence Department has told its 20,000 public servants they should expect a long wait for wage talks to begin.

Despite ordering an inquiry into how the department's draft position was supplied to the media last month, bosses say the leaked offer that angered staff is not their final position.

In a message to all of Defence’s 20,000 civilian bureaucrats, one of the department’s deputy secretaries Rebecca Skinner told the workers there would be no “rushing ahead” to the negotiating table despite the public servants losing money for every day a deal is delayed.

The Canberra Times revealed in July that the department’s powerful defence committee had signed off on a pay offer worth just 0.9 per cent a year - less than one-third the rate of inflation.

Departmental secretary Dennis Richardson has ordered an internal hunt for whoever leaked the plans for the pay offer but Ms Skinner told the workforce on Monday that the details revealed in this newspaper’s report  “do not represent Defence’s final bargaining position, which is yet to be finalised”.

Under the Abbott government’s tough bargaining framework for its public servants, departmental bosses are forbidden to back-pay any new wage deals struck in the bureaucracy, despite most of the agreements expiring on June 30.


But Ms Skinner revealed that Defence had not yet even approached Public Service Minister Eric Abetz to seek his sign-off on its bargaining package, as required under the government’s framework.

“Rushing ahead and submitting proposals that are not cost‐assured is not the way to make meaningful progress and would likely cause delay,” she wrote.

“Defence is taking a careful and methodical approach to a difficult task.

“There is further work to do as we move toward the point where the secretary can be satisfied that the department's proposal is sufficiently robust and will meet the government's productivity and affordability requirements.”

Even then, the deputy secretary wrote, there would be more delays while the various levels of sign-off required by the government were sought.

“Defence will then seek ministerial sign-off on the bargaining position and then cost approval by the Australian Public Service Commission,” Ms Skinner wrote.

“Defence will proceed to issue the notice of employee representational rights.

“Bargaining will commence soon after.”


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