Defence families across Australia are not happy about a military wage deal of less than half the rate of inflation and the stripping back of soldiers' workplace entitlements, their advocacy group says.
Just days after the nation's armed forces were committed to war in Iraq, 57,000 men and women in uniform were told they will have to give up some of their Christmas and recreational leave in order to get the pay rise of just 1.5 per cent a year over the next three years.
The Australian Defence Force Welfare Association says that more than 700 service families had contacted the organisation within hours of the wage package being announced, many of them expressing agitation at the "reduction in real wages".
The Chief of the Defence Force Mark Binskin told the military on Friday morning that he expected discontent in the ranks over the offer but said it was "as good an outcome as I can negotiate in the current climate".
Air Chief Marshal Binskin said the army, navy and air force would be expected to make other "productivity gains" in order to qualify for the below cost-living wage deal.
ACM Binskin told his troops by email on Friday morning that 1.5 per cent per year was a "fair and reasonable" pay rise in the present environment of wage restraint in the Commonwealth public sector.
"I know that some of you will believe this increase does not properly acknowledge the job you do," he wrote. "However...this proposal must be viewed in the context of the broader economic situation.
"I am of the view given the circumstances, this is a fair and reasonable offer and is as good an outcome as I can negotiate in the current climate."
ACM Binskin said that he was asking his men and women to give up some of their leave entitlements as an offset against the pay rise.
"One of the things we will offer up is one of the approved leave days over the Christmas period. Another is the removal of extra recreational leave provisions," he wrote.
"I know that leave is important to all ADF members and I have not taken this decision lightly."
Defence Welfare Association president David Jamison said the offer was not as low as he had feared and that he believed the Chief of Defence Force had done a good job in the circumstances.
"Nevertheless, it represents a reduction in real wages over a three-year period and our members are being quite vocal about it," Mr Jamison said.
"They're certainly not happy, it's a reduction and they've been saying that."
Professionals Australia, which represents many members of the Defence establishment, described the offer as "outrageous".
"For the Government to put forward a pay and conditions offer for the ADF that is below inflation and strips members of leave entitlements, and other conditions, is outrageous," union official Dave Smith said.
"At a time when members are being deployed their families will have less capacity to pay the bills and they will have less time to spend with their families.
"ADF members don't get a real say in this outcome and have limited representation."
The Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal will convene on Wednesday to examine the proposal and hear submissions from interested parties.
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