The current round of cuts and mass redundancies in public services around the nation are unprecedented in recent history, a federal inquiry has been told.

The sackings have been accompanied by unilateral removal of long held rights of access to industrial tribunals, legislated removal of terms and conditions and wage ceilings that are insufficient to keep up with inflation.

The Community and Public Sector Union also says a propaganda campaign has been used by various governments to justify the cuts.

"The campaign has sought to demonise public sector workers by creating a false dichotomy between “faceless unproductive bureaucrats” and “front line workers” and to denigrate the work of those who are the interface between the government and the citizens of each State and Territory," the union says in a submission to a federal parliamentary inquiry into the employment conditions of public servants.

The union raises specific problems for workers who transfer between a territory, state and federal public sector as a result of COAG processes.

Implementing regulation and competition reforms calls for territory, state and federal governments to simplify regulatory arrangements or rationalise public services and activities between the jurisdictions.

The union cites the National Measurement Institute, the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency, the National Rail Safety Regulator and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator.

"We regard the absence of any nationwide agreement in these situations on the treatment of employees, their industrial entitlements, implications of transfer of service and the retention of their accrued entitlements as significant contributors to the ambiguous industrial relations status of the new entities," the union says.

"In NSW for example, staff transferring to NMI faced considerable disadvantage as they would be facing a pay freeze of around 4-5 years while the Commonwealth collective agreement caught up with then-current salary levels and also because of the increase in working hours."

The union says the NSW public sector is the largest employer in Australia, with 332,555 full-time equivalent employees, of whom one third work outside Sydney.

"The O'Farrell Government has declared war on the industrial relations system in NSW," it says.

"Wage setting in the NSW public sector operates within a narrow framework that denies public sector workers the basic right to collectively bargain over wages and conditions or to have their wages and conditions determined by an impartial and independent arbiter."

The submission says at last June the ACT public sector had 21,955 employees, representing about 10 per cent of the territory's workforce.

"Like the NT Government, the ACT Government faces difficult fiscal circumstances including contracting Commonwealth expenditure, a moderating economy, softening revenues and increasing cost pressures," the union says.

"However, while there have been some cuts to departmental budgets, the ACT Government has sought to manage its fiscal position without wholesale job losses or redundancy processes.

"The ACT Treasurer [Andrew Barr] stated: 'We will not respond in a knee-jerk manner by slash and burn budgeting'.

"Budget pressures on the ACTPS has manifested in other ways. In recent years, we have seen the ACT Government unilaterally reduce the employer superannuation contribution rate for new ACTPS employees, the implementation of an “efficiency dividend”, tough bargaining conditions for enterprise agreements and a four month hiring freeze on “non-frontline positions” in 2010."

The CPSU says the cuts are:

NSW: staff reduction target of 15000 and a 1.2 per cent “labour expense cap”

Victoria: 4,200 “non service delivery positions” over three years

Queensland: 15,000 positions

Western Australia: 400 positions in 2011

South Australia: Between 2012 and 2016 the number of full time equivalent employees will decrease by 3,8931

Tasmania: 2,300 over four years

Northern Territory: staffing cap on staffing levels over 2010 and, since the election of the CLP Government last August, 600 job cuts have been announced, a recruitment freeze has been implemented and hundreds of temporary contracts have not been renewed

ACT: 180 positions through “natural attrition, reduced contractor expenses and voluntary redundancies”