Bosses at the Immigration Department will get a second pay rise inside eight months while a freeze on salary growth remains for rank-and-file workers locked in a marathon bargaining dispute.
Department of Immigration and Border Protection secretary Mike Pezzullo handed staff in the top-level senior executive service band an immediate 2 per cent increase to their pay, on top of another 2 per cent rise in November last year.
The main public service union, the CPSU, condemned the move and called it a slap in the face for workers at the department embroiled in a four-year dispute over pay and conditions.
But the department shot back on Wednesday, accusing the CPSU of misleading comments.
CPSU Deputy National President Rupert Evans said the department was trying to strip rights, conditions and pay for front-line workers but freely awarded pay rises to those at the top.
"These two no-strings attached pay rises – 4 per cent in eight months – clearly show there's one set of rules for senior executives and another set for staff working on average or below average wages while struggling to keep up with their mortgage payments and living costs," he said.
"Secretary Mike Pezzullo's email to advise senior executives of their good fortune says they deserve a pay rise for the department's achievements – such as issuing millions of visas and seizing drugs, guns and other contraband – yet the people who've actually carried out this work continue to get nothing.
"This frustrating and unfair situation in DIBP is in marked contrast to the bargaining progress that's been made in the rest of the Commonwealth public sector in 2017, as bosses have recognised that retaining existing rights and conditions is the key issue for their staff."
Mr Evans said Immigration's SES staff would retain their existing workplace rights and conditions, as they did with the November pay rise, in contrast to the fight for a new general staff agreement.
Long-running bargaining disputes starting as the Coalition imposed a hardline industrial policy have settled at the Australian Tax Office, and the Defence and Agriculture departments following yes votes in recent months.
But the stoush at Immigration has been taken out of the hands of departmental bosses and is now subject to a lengthy arbitration process at the Fair Work Commission.
A spokeswoman for the Immigration Department said the CPSU was misleading workers.
"The CPSU continues to mislead staff through its communications and has been unwilling to constructively engage with the department on any matter," she said.
"The CPSU has actively campaigned against the quantum of pay increases the department has offered staff through these enterprise bargaining ballots. It has, instead, pushed for terms and conditions to be set through arbitration at the Fair Work Commission.
The spokeswoman said pay increases provided to senior staff reflected the same offer made to rank-and-file employees who had rejected three pay offers, including two which averaged 2 per cent a year and effective pay increases of more than 6 per cent for most staff over three years.
"SES increases are consistent with the requirements of the APS Bargaining Policy and SES remuneration outcomes in a range of other APS agencies.
"Staff in the vast majority of Commonwealth agencies have now voted up enterprise agreements that delivers a 2 per cent average pay increase each year."