The federal government has decided to freeze wage increases for Australian Public Service employees for six months.
Newly appointed assistant public service minister Ben Morton on Friday said public servants would “share the economic burden” of the coronavirus pandemic from April 14.
“The Australian Public Service remains a critical part of our efforts to minimise the impacts on COVID-19 on the Australian economy for workers and their families. Everyone from the prime minister down appreciates the outstanding work the APS is doing,” he said.
“Every APS employee will have someone in their families, or know someone, affected by the current economic circumstances. While communities are doing it tough, it’s important the APS helps share the economic burden.”
He said the deferral of wage increases will remain in effect for 12 months.
“During this period, agencies will defer upcoming wage increases by six months as they fall due. This will ensure the deferral is shared equally by all APS employees,” he said.
The Community and Public Sector Union has condemned the wage freeze, noting that the wage increase for federal public servants is only 0.058% of the government budget.
“Communities around the country are looking to our public sector at this troubled time, more than ever before. Public sector workers are delivering for all of us, and the government is thanking them with a six month pay freeze,” it said in a statement.
CPSU national secretary Melissa Donnelly argued public sector workers have been holding the community together during the pandemic and called for the decision to be reversed.
“There is no doubt that our members are working longer and harder than ever before, to try to meet this unprecedented surge in demand for government services,” she said.
“All of Australia can see that Services Australia workers are slugging their guts out in the middle of a pandemic. The ATO is helping small business accessing programs to keep their doors open and their employees paid. Across the country, our members are working to keep the nation moving.
“There are no winners in this decision, workers getting less means they will spend less in their struggling local businesses … It just doesn’t make economic sense.”
Morton said he has asked APS commissioner Peter Woolcott to ensure that new wage proposals approved over the next 12 months are consistent with the government decision.
He also requested Woolcott write to non-APS agencies, “informing them of the government’s expectations of them to implement a six month deferral as well”.
“Our intention is to return to what has been a very successful public sector wages policy as soon as is possible, but we will continue to monitor the economic outlook and respond as necessary,” he said.