A union representing Airservices Australia staff has lodged a formal dispute with the Fair Work Commission over changes to pay conditions.

Professionals Australia, which represents engineers at the air traffic control agency, said it was an attempt to bring Airservices management to the conciliation table over the agency's decision to remove salary progression, which allowed staff to move through pay classifications

The union was concerned the removal or slowing down of the progression through pay grades was a trend across the federal bureaucracy.

Professionals Australia's ACT director David Smith said the move would essentially freeze pay increases, except in the cases of promotion.

Mr Smith said it was an attempt to retrofit Airservices Australia's agreement with staff, which was struck last year, to put it in line with the federal government's hardline stance on pay and conditions at the moment.

"[The change] was never raised in agreement negotiations," he said.

Mr Smith said Airservices staff were looking at total stagnation of pay outside their annual increases, which go up with inflation.

"What they won’t get is any real recognition of their growth and expertise as they will be stuck at the same point in their pay scale," he said. 

An Airservices spokesperson said there had been extensive consultation with staff and unions about the proposed changes.

"Outside of the proposed changes, Airservices staff will continue to receive guaranteed increases to salary and superannuation," the spokesperson said. 

The union and Airservices would attend an urgent hearing on Friday.

Airservices Australia plans to implement its new workplace performance framework on July 1, 2014.

The Defence Department has already flagged with staff it would be looking to slow progression through pay classifications.

Ex-department head Allan Hawke commented last week on his distaste for performance pay saying it encouraged "toadyism".

Dr Hawke is a board member at ACTEW Corporation where another dispute relating to performance pay has flared up.

Mr Smith said ACTEW had proposed a system where workers received a "snails’ pace incremental progression up to the midpoint of your classification".

"And then you stop and, subject to performance assessment, you may get a one-off annual bonus," Mr Smith said. 

"For fully effective performance that proposed bonus is $250. It’s pathetic."