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Public servants' super could be slashed by more than 30 per cent

Date

Noel Towell

The federal government wants to strip legal guarantees from the generous retirement benefits of its tens of thousands of public servants.

Unions say the move would enable the Commonwealth to strip hundreds of thousands of dollars from the retirement dreams of every bureaucrat, at the stroke of a minister’s pen.

Several departments are moving to scrap their workforce’s legally binding entitlement to the Australian Public Service’s generous 15.4 per cent employer superannuation contribution.

If successful, the move would leave Finance Minister Mathias Cormann free to slash the rate of employer contributions to public servants’ super by more than 30 per cent to the 9.5 per cent guaranteed to all Australian workers.

The Australian Public Service Commission, the Commonwealth workplace authority that is enforcing the government’s tough industrial line in the public service, refused to answer questions on Thursday about the departments' contentious plan.

The Department of Human Services, the Australian Taxation Office, the Department of Health and the Department of Finance, together employing nearly a third of the Commonwealth bureaucracy, have already put their cards on the table on their worker’s super guarantees.

The departments want to take their public servants’ superannuation guarantees out of their legally protected enterprise agreement and put them into “regulations”.

Departmental secretaries say they have no plans to cut the rate of contributions and that they are moving to “streamline” and “simplify” cumbersome enterprise bargaining agreements, many of which run to more than 100 pages.

However, the principal public sector union, the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), says the move would make bureaucrats' superannuation hopelessly vulnerable to cost-cutting drives by a finance minister who would have the power to unilaterally slash employers' contributions.

The public service’s generous superannuation provision is a draw card for workers joining, and staying at, government departments, and the Commonwealth’s various retirement savings schemes are a hot-button issue in the bureaucracy.

Superannuation is the latest battleground to emerge as 117 agencies and departments try to trash out new workplace deals with 160,000 public servants.

Already fights are raging about wages, working hours, allowances and other issues as departments slowly disclose their offers.

CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood said modestly paid rank-and-file government employees were worried about their retirement savings. “As bargaining continues, the number of significant Commonwealth agencies trying to remove the superannuation contribution from agreements is growing,” she said.

“The Department of Human Services (DHS) is the most advanced in its plan to strip superannuation from agreements, but we’ve got Health, Tax, Finance and the Australian Institute of Criminology following in its wake.

“So this is starting to look like a whole-of-government direction, but we’re not at the point yet where we can say it absolutely is.”

Ms Flood cited the government’s biggest department, and her union’s stronghold, Human Services, and its largest group of workers at the APS4 classification who earn less than $69,000 a year.

She said Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support Agency workers would lose more than $4000 annually if their employer's super contributions were cut to 9.5 per cent.

“This is causing enormous concern in DHS, with staff worried their super cut be cut to 9.5 per cent,” Ms Flood said. “The Public Service Commission needs to answer the question; why are multiple agencies in different portfolios all saying they have to strip the superannuation out of enterprise agreements?”

On Thursday, the Public Service Commission said it would not answer questions. “The APSC does not comment on the advice we provide to agencies,” a spokeswoman said.

50 comments

  • Oh no ... they would have to accept the same as the average worker ... how terrible to picked on so .... do these unions & the public servants they represent realise that the normal working people aren't concerned by them having to live like the rest of us

    Commenter
    brian
    Date and time
    Thu Aug 07 23:16:11 UTC 2014
    • This is basically forced savings for public servants. Super is a part of your total remuneration package, public servants don't get anything extra.

      If the government wants to cut back public servants super, they'd have to compensate them with an equivalent direct pay rise otherwise it would actually be giving them a pay cut. The public service use this as an attraction and retention tool for staff, getting rid of it simply makes them less competitive in the marketplace.

      Commenter
      Freddie Frog
      Date and time
      Fri Aug 08 00:58:54 UTC 2014
    • you do realise that that 15% super for your working life is the accepted amount that a retiree needs to be self suffient.
      Also when super was envisioned it would slowly work up to 15% for everyone. Oh wait it's the Liberals that have been delaying increases in the compulsory super rate.

      I assume that if they are cutting the super rate public servants will recieve the difference in their net pay? Cos that is what super is it's witholding an amount of pay to be contributed to super.

      Commenter
      Jess
      Location
      here
      Date and time
      Fri Aug 08 01:06:06 UTC 2014
    • Yes because everyone knows that all jobs are the same and that everyone should be paid the same flat rate. Jobs don't have different levels of difficulty, or require different or unique sets of skills. They are all the same and therefore deserve the same pay. I'm with you.

      Commenter
      Man
      Date and time
      Fri Aug 08 01:15:50 UTC 2014
    • @Freddie Frog - you are kidding - aren't you? You are not being serious? - OMG I think you are being serious, now I am concerned!!!!

      Commenter
      Irene
      Date and time
      Fri Aug 08 01:56:21 UTC 2014
    • We were waiting for the increase under the previous government too Jess.. Both sides are or have been avoiding this one.. Costs too much

      Commenter
      History
      Location
      Acton
      Date and time
      Fri Aug 08 02:19:58 UTC 2014
    • First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a Socialist.
      Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
      Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a Jew.
      Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me

      Commenter
      Dare-to-be-fair
      Date and time
      Fri Aug 08 02:22:03 UTC 2014
    • Irene,
      Have you got a point?

      Let me explain it slowly because you didn't seem to get it the first time.

      The public service hire employees to do a job. They compete for staff in the general marketplace.

      If they pay their staff less, either they get lower quality staff or they don't provide the services required.

      Commenter
      Freddie Frog
      Date and time
      Fri Aug 08 08:35:39 UTC 2014
  • Yeah let's take away all remuneration from public servants because they are just lazy bureaucrats who spend their days drinking coffee and surfing the net. Why do we even pay them. If I work in the public sector I automatically work 40% harder. Everyone knows that's true because it's completely based on outdated gossip. That is the best evidence we have. What could possibly go wrong if we cut back an excessive amount of public service jobs, cut wages, increase working hours, increase expectations, and decrease super? The government program's we all depend on to have a functioning society will still be managed properly won't they? I'm sure nothing could go wrong. I'm sure when employment picks up we will still be able to attract half decent staff to APS job won't we? It's not like this is the reason why we will end up with a decent percentage of unemployable people in the public service. I'm sure the smart ones will stay out of the goodness of their heart. This is a good plan. Let's not invest in anything and let's just collect cash. Everybody knows it's better to have cash in the bank as a nation. It's exactly the same as a household budget, everybody knows that.

    Commenter
    Man
    Date and time
    Thu Aug 07 23:34:00 UTC 2014
    • What about stripping politicians of their unbelievably benevolent superannuation scheme and treating them like mere everyday workers, together with the insane benefits provided to ex Prime Ministers, almost all of whom have caused some financial distress to nearly every Australian.
      That would reduce some of the discrimination in our community and almost solve the Budget problem.

      Commenter
      here we go again
      Date and time
      Thu Aug 07 23:40:51 UTC 2014

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