NT Chief Minister denies pay freeze is fuelling high executive turnover

By Stephen Easton

September 10, 2019

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The Northern Territory government is confident its executive pay freeze will not lead to significant turnover in the upper ranks of the public sector, mainly because that’s business as usual in Darwin.

The local newspaper reports only 58% of the relevant cohort, who earn over $200,000 a year, have agreed to give up their pay rises immediately and for the next two years. It sounds low, but Chief Minister Michael Gunner points out nearly a fifth of them leave each year anyway.

By the time the freeze on pay rises ends in three years, he expects, only about 40% of current public sector executive officers to still be working for NT taxpayers. Looking at it that way, Gunner thinks 58% agreeing to take the medicine upfront is more than enough.

The resistance is strongest among parliamentary service executives and their counterparts in territory-owned corporations, health and education, while public servants in the central agencies are toeing the line.

As Gunner explained recently, the government will get its $25 million in savings sooner or later because anyone who rejects the three-year pay freeze now could accept a renewed contract with a four-year freeze, or find a job elsewhere.

It is possible that some senior managers on taxpayer-funded salaries are keeping their options open and a reasonable number could accept the four-year freeze if they can’t find a better job before then.

According to the NT News, 100% of the relevant staff in Treasury have accepted their fate and the Chief Minister’s Department isn’t far behind, with 94% agreeing to tighten their belts sooner rather than later.

The education union was quick to attack the pay freeze, which applies to school principals, and only a third have reportedly agreed so far.

Acceptance is only marginally higher in government-owned corporate entities, at 36%, and in health, 39% of executives have agreed to take one for the territory, while 57% of the relevant officers in NT Police, Fire and Emergency Services have agreed to the freeze, according to the report.

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