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Public service bosses to pocket 5% pay rises as bargaining brawl looms

Pay rise: Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ian Watt talks to Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Pay rise: Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ian Watt talks to Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Photo: Getty

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 Australia's top public servant will get a $42,000 wage rise in July as industrial strife looms over pay rises for the Commonwealth's 160,000 rank-and-file bureaucrats.

Ian Watt, secretary of the Prime Minister and Cabinet department, will be on $844,000, plus perks, as he and the Commonwealth's 17 other top departmental bosses get pay rises of more than 5 per cent.

Reprieved Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson, who was due to be sacked in July, will instead enjoy a pay rise of just under $40,000, taking his salary to $824,000, after the government changed its mind about the sacking.

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Unions are predicting conflict this year over the government's hardline bargaining position on the wages of ordinary public servants, which will see them offered no pay rises that are not tied to ''genuine productivity gains'', such as longer working hours.

Public Service Minister Eric Abetz says a 4 per cent annual wage increase claimed by unions for government staffers is ''out of touch'' with community expectations and unsustainable for the nation's budget position.

The minister said on Wednesday that the dramatic pay rises for his departmental chiefs were the result of a decision made more than two years ago by the independent Remuneration Tribunal and had nothing to do with the policies of the Abbott government. Mr Watt's July pay rise will be his third in 12 months, taking his annual wage from $760,000, plus 15 per cent superannuation and a government-provided car, in July 2013 to $844,000 in July 2014. The defence and foreign affairs bosses, Dennis Richardson and Peter Varghese will each get $34,000 boosts to their wages, taking them to salaries of just under $800,0000.

Finance department secretary David Tune's salary will go to $758,000, while on the next tier down the chiefs of the health, social services, human services, immigration and industry departments will all earn $716,000.

Bottom of the pile will be veterans' affairs chief Simon Lewis, who will earn just $665,000.

July's wage hikes are expected to bring to an end a series of ''catch up'' rises recommended by the Remuneration Tribunal in 2012 after the independent body decided that secretaries' salaries were lagging those of the nation's other top bosses.

The final pay rises in the process were agreed by the tribunal in October 2013 just after the incoming Abbott government sacked four departmental secretaries, including Mr Parkinson, and imposed a hiring freeze on the broader public service. The wage hikes also coincide with the expiration of more than 100 enterprise agreements across the public service, with unions already predicting trouble over the government bargaining policies that have been announced.

A spokeswoman for Senator Abetz distanced the minister from the looming executive pay rises.

''Current remuneration for secretaries is the result of a 2012 determination by the Remuneration Tribunal, which makes its determinations independent of government, as required by law,'' she said.

Mr Watt's department declined to respond to questions about wages and conditions to be offered to its workers this year. ''The department is currently developing its enterprise bargaining position and is unable to comment,'' a spokeswoman said.

90 comments

  • Yet again the word hypocrisy rears its ugly head. Yet again Abbott and Co are telling us all how bad things are and we all have to tighten our belts and APS staff have to provide massive tradeoffs for an expected measly 1% per year pay rise over the next 3 years. And here we have the big end of town getting a lazy 5% just like that. And boy it is really a big 5% when it amounts to $42,000 which is like 2/3 of my total salary. Not a single word of any productivity gains or tradeoffs mentioned here of course. Pretty much the same story a couple of years ago when the pollies mates on the independant pay commission gave them all a 40% pay rise just like that.

    Commenter
    TuffGuy
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    April 23, 2014, 11:31PM
    • The article states the decision regarding this pay-rise was made over 2 years ago. How is this the fault of Mr Abbott? Try blaming the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd government (who, by the way, also severely limited APS pay-rises for the ranks).

      Can respondents refrain from misrepresenting the information presented in the article?

      Commenter
      John
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      April 24, 2014, 8:40AM
    • Who cares what party was in place. Given that we are told to toughen up and do our jobs with less staff, and find efficiencies, and deal with the fact that we are not even going to get CPI... wouldnt you think that these b@#$%^& would say no thanks... the optics of this type of payrise shows the staff that we dont care??

      Commenter
      Los
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      April 24, 2014, 9:48AM
    • Fair enough @ John of Canberra except the govt could have said that the pay rise is unaffordable and unsustainable but it has said nothing. It seems that the mass sackings in the PS would allow govt to pay these fat cats their pay rises with no productivity testing.
      I trust that MPs and Senators will also increase their productivity and attend all sittings of parliament and the Senate from now. I know of no other occupation where MPs and Senators could fail to attend sessions and yet are paid their normal pay. After all, why were were 905% of the Lib/Nat Senators absent when Arthur Sinodinos stood up to announce that he was standing down until the ICAC hearing was done? Did they get a pay cut and loss of conditions? What's the excuse Abetz and what did you do about the absences?

      Commenter
      Akari
      Date and time
      April 24, 2014, 9:50AM
    • Well it is simple, John. Abbott and friends should take the 5% payrise off them, so that 'everyone can do the heavy lifting.'

      Commenter
      The Genuine Article
      Date and time
      April 24, 2014, 9:59AM
    • it's not the big end of town, these are useless public servants, not people who work for their pay !!!

      Commenter
      ian
      Date and time
      April 24, 2014, 11:07AM
    • Hi Akari

      Why are you saying this to specifically to me? I was simply responding to invalid statements in TuffGuy's comments and asking that comments not misrepresent the article. If you want to suggest that Mr Abbott should at least say something then please feel free to do so - but not in response to my comment which wasn't even discussing that aspect. But if you are going to criticise Mr Abbott for not "saying something" - then surely you should severely criticise the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd Government for actually setting it up.

      If you are going to criticise Coalition members and senators for being absent, then shouldn't you also criticise the other members and senators when they are absent? Or are your rules so one-sided?

      Hi The Genuine Article

      If the Coalition break agreements signed by Labor, then what value does any agreement (including your employment agreement) have?

      Overall

      The fault, if any, was Labor's. Why not target them? Oh yes - Labor can get away with anything they like in this forum can't they. So much for fairness and equity.

      Commenter
      John
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      April 24, 2014, 12:29PM
    • The sleazy LNP salesmen have no boundaries.

      What is theirs is theirs.

      Everybody else is cannon fodder.

      Sick to the teeth of all this!

      Commenter
      Andy
      Date and time
      April 24, 2014, 2:00PM
    • John, the execute always has the choice about whether the accept the recommendation of the remuneration tribunal or not. In this case it is very clear. Abbott has decided that there is to be a decrease in the standard of living for the 98% of the population which will fund the increase in the standard of living for the other 2%.

      Commenter
      Alan
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      April 25, 2014, 12:19AM
  • Refresh my drink, which set of pay rises is unsustainable? I mean I get that there are more people on the lower ranks and everything but surely this would have to come close for matching the 4% asked for by those who do the day to day stuff?

    Commenter
    bkgw
    Date and time
    April 23, 2014, 11:57PM

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