Prime Minister stands by below-inflation ADF pay deal

The federal public service is priming itself for industrial action after Prime Minister Tony Abbott weighed into the bargaining negotiations affecting 160,000 Commonwealth bureaucrats. 

Restraint: Tony Abbott says the rest of the public sector can expect similar pay deals to that of the ADF.
Restraint: Tony Abbott says the rest of the public sector can expect similar pay deals to that of the ADF. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Mr Abbott's suggestion nobody in the public service would be receiving more than the pay rise of 1.5 per cent annually given to the Australian Defence Force

has spread isolated discontent about the ADF pay offer among  the entire Commonwealth workforce.

It has also sparked fighting words from the main union representing public-sector workers, which said the Coalition's fight with civilian public servants would be harder than its battle with uniformed personnel. 

"Unlike soldiers, public sector workers are allowed to fight back," Community and Public Sector Union national secretary Nadine Flood said.


"They can bargain and they can take industrial action if their employer won't reach an agreement, and that's where we are at today."

Under Australian legislation, soldiers, sailors and air-force personnel do not negotiate during reviews of wages and conditions, unlike their civilian colleagues.

Anger: Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.
Anger: Opposition Leader Bill Shorten. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The CPSU was already asking the Fair Work Commission for permission to take protected industrial action at two agencies, the Department of Human Services and the Department of Veterans Affairs

Ms Flood said Mr Abbott seemed unaware the biggest concern for public servants was the attack on rights and working conditions. 

The Prime Minister stood by the Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal approval of the below-inflation pay deal for 57,000 Australia soldiers, sailors and air force personnel on Tuesday morning, suggesting it  would be highest pay rise anyone in the public service would  receive this year.

He said he regretted  it  was not higher but "we are going to see restraint across the whole of the public sector and I would be surprised if anyone in the Commonwealth public sector receives more that what is seen by our defence forces".

TonyAbbott said the ADF deal would "not affect those serving overseas" and "those serving overseas get very substantial additional allowances and that is right and proper that that should be the case".

"The particular allowances, and benefits, they are unaffected, and will continue to be as they have been in recent times," Mr Abbott said.

The Defence Force Welfare Association's Facebook page was flooded with negative comments about the 4.5 per cent pay rise across three years, plus the loss of leave days for 57,000 members of the ADF, with comparisons being drawn with the massive leap in politicians entitlements.

Any hope Diggers had of political intervention to save their salaries from the real pay cut was rejected in Monday's tribunal decision, and also in the Prime Minister's Tuesday comments. 

Assistant Defence Minister Stuart Robert also said on Monday that is was "the end of the matter".

But Opposition leader Bill Shorten said on the same day that  the government's own budget papers revealed the funds for a fair pay deal had already been provided for.

"Tony Abbott should hang his head in shame at cutting the real wages of our ADF personnel and cutting their Christmas and recreational leave," Mr Shorten said. 

"It is inexplicable that this Government can send our service men and women into harm's way and at the same time force the ADF to take a real pay cut.

"Over the past three years, ADF wages have increased by an average of 3 per cent every year. The Abbott government pay increase of 1.5 per cent per annum is well below inflation.

"All at the same time as it's shovelling money to big polluters, giving mining companies a tax cut and paying millionaires $50,000 to have a baby."