Public servants in payrise paradise, says Eric Abetz

The Australian Public Service has been the nation's payrise paradise for the past 10 years, according to the government minister in charge.

Public Service Minister Eric Abetz says federal public servants have scored wage increases well in excess of those paid to private sector workers over the past 10 years, as he continues his push for low or no wage increases this year for Commonwealth bureaucrats.

In a letter to the editor criticising a Canberra Times article on his ongoing feud with the public sector union over the present round of wage talks for 160,000 federal public servants, Mr Abetz said that it was "a fact that APS median wage rises have totalled 42 per cent over the last decade, compared to CPI increases of 28 per cent".

Private sector wage rises over the same period had totalled 35.7 per cent, the letter – published in Monday's Canberra Times – said.

Senator Abetz said the figures showed the Community and Public Sector Union had enjoyed a "good run" in securing pay rises for its members in the public service.


"Most private sector employees could only dream of such largesse at the present time," he said.

Australian Bureau of Statistics shows a narrower gap between pay rises for workers in the private and public sectors over the past decade.

The ABS wage price index shows that from June 2004 to June 2014, total pay in the private sector rose by 42.4 per cent and 45.9 per cent in the broader public sector.

Research by the Parliamentary Library puts Senator Abetz and his federal parliamentary colleagues on top of the pile, scoring increases to their base salaries of more than 68 per cent between 2003 and 2013.   

Enterprise bargaining agreements across the public service are stalled as departmental bosses struggle to come up with packages tough enough to satisfy the government's "bargaining framework".

In his letter Senator Abetz said it was "simply wrong" to describe the "productivity offsets" being sought as cuts to conditions and entitlements.

"Rather, genuine productivity gains are demonstrable, permanent improvements in the efficiency, effectiveness and/or output of employees, based on improvements of work practices or conditions," he said.

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He blamed the union's "dogmatism", and its wage claim of 12 per cent over three years, for holding up the negotiation process.

"Public servants need to understand that the CPSU's wage claim simply cannot be paid for by the government borrowing even more money," the Minister wrote.

"It could only be paid for through more job losses. If paid in full, the CPSU's claim would cost at least 10,000 public service jobs.

"This year will be a better year for public servants if the CPSU accepts it has had a good run and that it is now time to consider the long-term interest of public servants, as well as community expectations."

Responding to Senator Abtez's letter on Monday, the union's acting national secretary, Michael Tull, said the government's "hard-line" public service industrial policies were responsible for the delays in signing agreements.

"Because of the Senator's unworkable hard-line bargaining policy not one agreement has been made in the public sector," Mr Tull said.

"Just before Christmas 95 per cent of staff in the Senator's own [Employment] department emphatically rejected a deal that would have cut their wages, conditions and jobs.

"Instead of writing letters to the editor, perhaps the  Minister should now accept the CPSU's outstanding invitation to sit down and negotiate a sensible path to settlement."


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