Public servants' union tells politicians to reject latest pay rise until APS wage dispute ends

The main public servants' union has urged federal politicians to knock back their latest pay rise until the long-running wage dispute in the bureaucracy is resolved.

CPSU supporters rally in Canberra last year to protest against low pay offers.
CPSU supporters rally in Canberra last year to protest against low pay offers. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

The Community and Public Sector Union said public servants would be "outraged and offended" at the Remuneration Tribunal's decision on Wednesday to recommend a 2 per cent pay increase for parliamentarians, government agency heads, judges and other public office holders.

Most of the senior officials have not received a pay rise for 2½ years, as a result of a wage freeze proposed in May 2014 by then prime minister Tony Abbott.

Next month, the base salary of a parliamentary backbencher will rise to $199,040 a year, while Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's will climb to $517,504.

The independent tribunal said an increase was due given the length of the freeze and the need to keep politicians and other senior officials' remuneration "at appropriate levels over the longer term to attract and retain people of the calibre required for these important high-level offices".


"The tribunal is generally conservative in its approach to annual increases and, in this case, is conscious of the government's continuing policy of wage restraint for the [Australian Public Service] and non-APS government agencies," it said.

However, CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood said it would be hypocritical for politicians and top bureaucrats to accept a "no-strings-attached" pay rise when they were demanding that public servants only accept wage increases if they traded off their conditions.

CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood has described the delays as unfortunate, but necessary.
CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood has described the delays as unfortunate, but necessary.  Photo: Jamila Toderas

"The double standard at work here is breath-taking. These same politicians are demanding ordinary mums and dads working on average wages in the public sector accept cuts to their rights to get 2 per cent and their wage freeze lifted," Ms Flood said.

"And now the same politicians are quietly lifting the pay freeze for themselves so they get an easy 2 per cent increase, no trade-offs, no questions asked. Even more galling is the fact that politicians' previous pay hike back in 2012-13 was a staggering 37.7 per cent."

The bureaucracy has struggled to strike new wage deals for its workforce since most existing agreements expired in July 2014.

In October this year, the Turnbull government increased the maximum pay rise the public service could offer its staff, most of whom have gone without an increase since July 2013. Agencies can now offer public servants an increase of up to 2 per cent a year, up from the previous cap of 1.5 per cent.

Ms Flood urged Mr Turnbull "and all other politicians to refuse to accept this increase until most public sector workers have got a pay rise".

"Politicians always hide behind the Remuneration Tribunal but the fact is they set its rules and they can decide whether to accept pay rises or not."

However, former senior public servant Paddy Gourley, who has worked extensively on executive remuneration, warned against interfering with the tribunal's advice.

"Parliament established the Remuneration Tribunal to depoliticise the setting of salaries for senior officials and MPs," he said on Thursday.

"Encouraging the disallowance of tribunal determinations is, in effect, asking Parliament to do the very thing it was trying to avoid in establishing up the tribunal in the first place. It's just too silly for words."


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