Tasmanian premier’s new pay offer come with a major public service review attached

By Stephen Easton

Friday March 1, 2019

After sticking to its 2% cap on public sector wage rises for five years, the Tasmanian government has offered its workers a tiny bit more with a list of conditions, including a two-year review of the whole state public service.

The offer would still only provide a 2% increase in the first year, followed by 2.25% and 2.5% in the following years, and union leaders were not impressed with its content or the timing.

Annual salary progression would be based on performance in all cases if unions agreed to the deal, and Tasmania’s public servants would also get less public holidays. The aim, according to Premier Will Hodgman, is to align the public sector work calendar more closely with other jurisdictions and the Tasmanian private sector, so the uniquely Tasmanian regional half-day holidays and Easter Tuesday are in the firing line.

The deal is also predicated on the removal of some overtime entitlements for part-timers, “… noting that in a significant number of cases, staff who work part time and then undertake further work in addition to their regular part-time hours receive payment at overtime rates,” according to a statement from the premier.

Another condition, described as a “workforce renewal incentive program” by Hodgman, would encourage up to 150 people to retire and replace them with lower paid staff.

The government also wants to remove “waiting time payments” that provide a penalty rate if staff are paid late, which it says are “outdated” provisions from the days of manual payroll processing.

The proposed review of the state service would take two years and look at “structural, legislative and cultural improvements that would transform current structures, services and practices and deliver a State Service Act fit for purpose for the 21st century”, according to the premier.

“Unions to date have agreed to progress consideration of these measures,” he added hopefully in the statement yesterday, but the reaction from union leaders was not promising.

Health, education and public sector employee representatives said they received the information about the new deal yesterday only about five minutes before a scheduled press conference to announced further strike action. Their initial reaction was that members were unlikely to agree, the ABC reports.

Words like “pathetic” and “unacceptable” do not bode well for a swift resolution of the long running pay dispute, which has seen widespread and highly visible industrial action across a range of frontline state services.

“Should these measures listed above not be agreed to, the Government remains willing to discuss other options that unions may wish to propose that would enable us to revise our wages policy … whilst ensuring an affordable and importantly sustainable outcome for the State Budget,” said Hodgman’s media release.

“To be clear though, neither the Government nor the unions have proposed any forced redundancies or reductions in frontline services.

“We look forward to unions taking this proposal to their members so that we can continue to progress towards an agreement.”

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