Bruising battle looms over public service's 12 per cent wage claim

Australia's 165,000 Commonwealth public servants are on a collision course with the Abbott government over their new 12 per cent wage claim.

The main public-sector union has submitted its log of claims for this year's eagerly awaited service-wide enterprise bargaining talks, calling for guaranteed wage rises of 4 per cent each year for the three-year life of the deal.

But with the Abbott government determined to take a razor to its public-sector wage bill of nearly $20 billion, a pay demand of nearly twice the rate of inflation sets the scene for a bruising industrial battle this year.

Do you know more? Send your confidential tips to

With enterprise agreements in 117 departments and agencies, employing about 165,000 workers, due to expire in June, the two sides have not even agreed on terms for the negotiations.


Agreement has yet to be reached on whether the talks will be held on an agency-by-agency basis or if the new deal will be centrally agreed and tailored by individual departments.

Public Service Minister Eric Abetz was still on holidays on Monday and unavailable to be interviewed and his office did not respond to questions before deadline.

The last round of negotiations was messy and protracted, resulting in a range of settlements.

Customs officers landed one of the better agreements but only after they went on strike for their 11 per cent wage rise over three years.

Wage deals across the public service are disparate and the pay gap between public servants on the same rank but in different departments has swollen to as much as $47,000 a year in some instances.

But the service's workplace authority, the Public Service Commission, told union delegates last year that a ''central negotiating table'', with 10 senior bureaucrats facing trade unions and employee representatives, was preferable to holding more than 100 sets of negotiations.

The Community and Public Sector Union says it developed its log of claims, which has been served on the Australian Public Service Commission as well as individual departments, after consulting with more than 18,000 federal bureaucrats.

The union also wants to see improvements to public service job security, better protection for workers taking voluntary redundancies, changes to workplace dispute arrangements and guarantees on leave and other entitlements.

CPSU assistant national secretary Louise Persse said the log of claims was not just about wages.

''Our members are concerned about a range of issues,'' she said. ''Pay is one of those, job security is another, workload is another.

''It is no secret that an Abbott government poses significant threats and challenges to public-sector workers and it will be a tough bargaining environment.

''But our delegates learnt a great deal in the last round of bargaining and we will be using that knowledge this time around.''

The union official said she and her colleagues were worried that the process was well behind schedule after the disruption of the change of government last year.

''In the normal course of things, we would start to talk about those things with the government of the day about 12 months out but there have been changes there so, unfortunately for our members, that has led to some delays,'' Ms Persse said. ''But we've served our claim and we're ready.''


Comment are now closed